By Jon Campbell and Jessica Bakeman
ALBANY - A state budget bill introduced late Sunday indefinitely suspends a provision of New York's controversial gun-control law that prohibits the sale of 10-bullet magazines, a change that legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated recently that they would support.
The Education, Labor & Family Assistance portion of the budget makes clear that eight, nine or 10-bullet capacity magazines will still be available for purchase in New York after April 15, the effective date by which they were supposed to be banned. Owners, however, will only be able to load seven bullets into the 10-round magazines.
The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, which Cuomo signed Jan. 15, had been set to prohibit the sale of magazines that can hold more than seven bullets as of April 15. But manufacturers do not sell seven-bullet magazines, so the change is being made, lawmakers said last week.
The magazine-capacity provision "shall be suspended and not effective," according to the budget language.
Under the change, if magazines are loaded with more than seven bullets outside of a gun range or competition, they would be illegal. The punishments vary depending on if the magazine was within the owner's home and whether it's a first-time offense.
Lawmakers made other minor tweaks to the law, as well, including a clarification stating that the law cannot be "deemed to affect, impair or supersede" any local gun restriction or law.
Gun-rights supporters said the changes demonstrate that the bill was passed in haste.
Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, said a full repeal is the "best-case scenario." He's been an outspoken opponent of the law.
"This is New York state. It's not Texas, unfortunately on some days," Ball said. "Any changes in a positive direction are good. I would like to see more comprehensive changes beyond what we see now."
Another Second Amendment rights supporter, Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, said he's co-sponsoring a bill to repeal the law.
"I'll say it again, and I'll say it 100 times: The SAFE Act was done too quickly. It's really not a good piece of legislation, and that's why I voted no," Libous said.
Sen. Thomas O'Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County, said he worried that the Legislature and Cuomo will balk at other changes.
"My concerns is that these changes are going to be the final changes that are made to the SAFE Act by this Legislature," said O'Mara, who also wants a repeal.
Fifty-one county legislatures in New York have passed resolutions in opposition to the gun law, asking for a repeal or major changes. There are 62 counties in New York.
Upstate, all but three counties have passed resolutions in opposition to the law -- Tompkins, Broome and Albany counties. The rest are Westchester, New York City and Long Island.
Recent polls have shown that a majority of New Yorkers support gun control.
Cuomo argued Monday that the law is a necessary response to gun violence nationwide, like the Newtown, Conn., massacre in December. The law will keep New Yorkers safe, he said.
"It's not just the Second Amendment rights -- people have the right to be safe," Cuomo said on "The Capitol Pressroom," a public-radio show.
"People have the right to be protected from random violence. And criminals and the mentally ill do not have a right to a gun -- they don't," he said. "And you need a system and government regulation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill."