Springville Journal editorial: ‘And the right to bear arms’
S.2230, “The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013,” was scooted through the state Legislature so fast, it made my head spin. It’s too bad our government doesn’t always get its business done this fast, or our country could potentially be in a much better spot, today. But I digress.
As New York Times contributor Andrew Rosenthal put it, the bill is “a snarl of good ideas, strange ideas and ideas that seem quite bad.”
The bill is jam-packed with what sounds to me like a lot of snap judgement responses to the recent tragedies in Newtown, Conn., Webster, N.Y. and Aurora, Colo. Below are just a few of the legislation’s provisions.
Semi-automatic guns that have at least one feature associated with military weaponry (such as a pistol grip or flash suppressor) are now classified as assault weapons and are banned; all ammunition sellers must register with the state police; mandatory life sentences were created for anyone who murders certain first responders; mental health professionals are required to report patients who exhibit behavior that suggests they could be harmful to others or to themselves; anyone looking to purchase ammunition, in person or online, must submit to a background check and ammunition purchased online may be picked up only at an authorized retailer and may not be shipped to an individual’s home.
In addition, the bill banned large-capacity magazines that can hold more than seven rounds of ammunition. People who already own larger-capacity magazines were “grandfathered” in, but cannot load more than seven rounds.
President Abraham Lincoln was killed with a single-shot derringer. People have been murdered by asphyxiation, body-slamming, knifing, blunt force and any number of other means. Taking three bullets out of a magazine will hardly keep someone from murder, if that is his or her goal.
The bill eliminated lifetime gun registrations and now requires firearm owners to re-register their weapons every five years (conveniently, also putting a little more padding into the state’s pockets).
S. 2230 also created or enhanced existing penalties for illegal gun use, including possession of a firearm on school grounds or a school bus; possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony offense or drug-trafficking felony and physical injury to a child by the intentional discharge of a firearm.
School districts that take steps to enhance security on school grounds were guaranteed state aid reimbursement “at a rate 10 percent higher than their current building aid ratio.”
This smorgasbord of ideas seems like Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attempt at a quick fix to a debate that has been around for decades.
The National Rifle Association recently released a statement, calling S.2230 a “draconian” demand by the governor to “fuel his personal political aspirations.”
Many gun owners in New York state fear that this new bill, as well as upcoming national legislation President Barack Obama has hinted at, will also violate the Constitution’s rules about searches and seizures.
Texas Representative Steve Stockman announced that he is ready to file impeachment papers against Obama, if the president decides to hinder Americans’ rights to bear arms. “The very purpose of the Second Amendment is to stop the government from disallowing people the means to defend themselves against tyranny,” he said. “If the president is allowed to suspend constitutional rights on his own personal whims, our free republic has effectively ceased to exist.”
I wish I could say that the rights the Constitution guarantees us have and will always be upheld, but this snub to the Second Amendment joins our government’s more and more common disregard to our rights to free speech, protection from unreasonable search, rights to assemble and freedom of religion. The Constitution, which guaranteed us the right to “bear arms,” not “the right to bear the arms the government decides is appropriate, that year,” apparently calls the shots, only when it suits the government.
I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water and I think the bill has some good ideas, but it’s hard to see the trees for the forest.
For instance, I don’t argue with the bill’s notion that guns should be kept out of the hands of individuals’ suffering from mental illness. Director of the Division of Law, Ethics and Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, though, called foul on that particular provision. “[It] represents a major change in the presumption of confidentiality that has been inherent in mental health treatment,” he said.
I agree that confidentiality is important, but what is worse, causing someone embarrassment by revealing that he or she struggles with dangerous thoughts, or not reporting that major issue and allowing a murder to take place?
Whatever happened to allowing the voting public the right to provide input on legislation that affects it to such a degree? Why was this sneaked into Legislative chambers, as darkness settled and New Yorkers headed to bed? The NRA called it an “all-out assault on the Second Amendment and the law-abiding citizens of New York.”
“Neither Mr. Obama, nor Mr. Cuomo, is getting ready to raid the homes of law-abiding citizens. Still, passing confusing legislation in the dead of night, without public discussion, is not a great way to prove that,” Rosenthal said.
It took two days for S. 2230-2013 to pass through the Senate and the Assembly. While Senator Mark Grisanti put his stamp of approval on the bill, senators Patrick Gallivan and Catharine Young would not and voted no.
Check out the shiny, new gun bill, the first in the nation since Newtown, in its entirety, at open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S2230-2013.