No, the state is not tapping phones of gun-store owners in this post-SAFE Act world, according to the head of the State Police.
During 45 minutes of testimony at a budget hearing Wednesday, State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico was quizzed by Assemblyman Clifford Crouch on “rumors” that smaller gun dealers were on the receiving end of wiretaps.
“I heard rumors after the implementation of the SAFE Act that some of the small—I’ll call them mom-and-pop dealers, not the box stores or anything like that—that some of them had heard rumors that there were phone taps, assuming that the small dealers would be the ones to violate the law,” said Crouch, a Chenango County Republican. “Can you speak to that? Was there phone taps that were put on some of these small, mom-and-pop dealers?”
D’Amico said unequivocally that there weren’t.
“I can assure you that there are no phone taps,” D’Amico said. “There is no monitoring, there is no proactive effort by law enforcement to find people who are violating the SAFE Act.”
The police superintendent faced several questions about the gun laws passed in January 2013, with most focused on the creation of a statewide database the state is creating for background checks on ammunition sales.
The database still isn’t ready for launch, D’Amico said. He declined to give an estimate of when it may be completed, but said his office is meeting with vendors while looking for a “seamless and instantaneous” system.
“We’re looking at technology,” D’Amico said. “We’ve had a number of vendors come in. We have others scheduled, looking for an option that is absolutely seamless and instantaneous at the point of sale. Until such time as we can come up with that, we’re not ready to do it. When we are, we’ll give ample to notice to everyone that we are ready to do it, but it is not ready today.”
D’Amico said there is $3.2 million in Cuomo’s 2014-15 budget proposal for personnel costs related to the SAFE Act. In the 2013-14 budget, 19 employees were hired as part of another $3.2 million appropriation, and $27.7 million was set aside for the database and other IT costs for implementing the gun laws.
State Police, meanwhile, are not implementing a portion of the SAFE Act restricting magazines to no more than seven loaded rounds at any one time. The provision was struck down in federal court covering the western part of the state, but some prosecutors had questioned whether the ruling was applicable statewide.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had previously recognized the ruling as the “law of the land,” but it is currently under appeal by the state.
“I’ll speak on the State Police policy,” D’Amico said. “As a result of the court decision in the western district, we are currently not enforcing the seven-round provisions of the SAFE Act.”
Here’s video of D’Amico’s testimony, courtesy of the state Senate. Crouch’s exchange with D’Amico starts around the 32:20 mark. (AP file photo)