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The state’s knee-jerk gun law


The sound you have been hearing since Monday is gun owners screaming.

The state Legislature passed a gun control law this week that more clearly defines what assault weapons are, expands registration requirements, decreases the amount of ammunition you’re allowed to have in a clip from 10 to seven rounds, increases penalties for killing first responders, and carries provisions aimed at preventing people from getting guns if they are suffering from mental illness and could be a danger to themselves or others.

I heard nearly nonstop outrage from a lot of gun owners all week. I’m so far a little nervous about the law’s implications for law-abiding gun owners, but I don’t share their outrage just yet. I want to see what changes to the law the state Legislature will make in the weeks to come. Lawmakers are already discussing amendments.

Why are they changing a law they just passed? Because careful, thoughtful deliberation was not part of the process. It was proposed on Monday and signed into law by Tuesday night. The state Senate passed it without even debating it. This bill, dubbed the New York State Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, was by all accounts shuffled through the Legislature at lightning speed, so quickly that even though folks on both sides of the political aisle seem to agree it was far from perfect, it passed in both chambers by a landslide.

The governor’s signature is barely dry, and legislators are saying there are some fairly gaping holes in the law that need to be closed and some of its provisions need to be strengthened.

If this isn’t a shining example of a knee-jerk reaction to a hot-button issue, I don’t know what is.

Here’s the deal. If lawmakers really want to keep high-powered guns out of the hands of people who are planning to shoot up elementary schools, they should put a lot of thought into how to do that without stepping on the Second Amendment. They didn’t.

Its supporterswere apparently more interested in getting their names in the news and scoring political points with downstate campaign contributors who haven’t been near a gun in their lives, don’t understand why anyone would want to own one and feel they need to protect us bumpkins from our gun-toting selves.

If Connecticut had something similar to NYSAFE in place, the outcome in Newtown would have been no less tragic. Adam Lanza, the person responsible for the horror in Connecticut, didn’t buy his guns. He stole them from his mother, a law-abiding gun owner who he shot and killed. He wouldn’t have been subject to a background check since he didn’t buy the guns. Even if someone had checked his background, he had no criminal history, so nobody would have figured he was anything more than a quiet, awkward kid. He might have been reported as a threat to authorities by a mental health professional if he had been getting some kind of treatment or counseling, but he wasn’t. He could have changed clips loaded with seven rounds just as easily as he could 10-round clips.

I invite any of our state lawmakers to educate me about how their regulations could prevent another Newtown from happening in New York.

Hasty decisions fueled more by emotion than logic don’t tend to be good ones. But that’s what we got from Albany last week.

I hope that as lawmakers consider amendments to the law, they keep in mind that not all gun owners are planning to perpetrate a mass shooting, and they should not let emotion or political ambition prevail in their decision-making.

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