January 31, 2013
Governor Cuomo’s Game of Chicken
By David E. Petzal
Among state legislatures, New York’s ranks among the worst. For general sloth and indolence it is excelled by few, and for corruption, its only equal is probably Illinois. However, several weeks ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo (“Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste.”) galvanized this curious bunch of life forms into passing what he proudly calls the strictest gun law in the United States, albeit he did it by circumventing the normal legislative process, and there’s a chance it will be struck down by the courts. But in the meanwhile, residents of the Empire State are stuck with its grotesque provisions.
Among them are some real howlers, such as the one that allows owners of 10-shot magazines to hang on to them, but forbids loading them with more than 7 rounds. As we are well aware, a gun with 7 shots in the magazine is not a menace to public safety, but one with 10 shots is. And I have no doubt that the next lunatic on the way to his way to a massacre will be careful to load no more than 7 cartridges into whatever firearm he has on hand.
But the really interesting part of this mess concerns the disposition of the many rifles now classified as assault weapons. Their owners must register them with the police (I believe it is the State Police.) by April 14, 2014. I’ve heard that there are a million ARs in New York State, and that the figure may be 3 million, although that seems high. In any event, there are a lot, and a great many of them are untraceable.
So the question arises, what if hardly anyone registers their ARs? Let us say the April 14 deadline arrives, and 2,037 people have complied with the law. Or 10,132. This means the gun-owning public has flipped off the Governor, and the Gun Law. What then does Governor Cuomo do about it? He could order the police (Local? State?) to visit the homes of all known gun owners, and if an AR happens to be present, charge them with a misdemeanor and probably confiscate the rifle. But then, what does this do about the hundreds of thousands of untraceable guns?
The complications that would arise from police visits and confiscations are wonderful to contemplate—thousands and thousands of previously upstanding citizens would be processed through the courts, fined, and possibly jailed. The effect on Governor Cuomo’s political career would not be good. He reportedly has presidential ambitions, and a record as the politician who ordered gun confiscation would not be helpful.
Massive noncompliance is a very real possibility. Canada’s sweeping gun law of 1995 was a dismal failure because people simply ignored it; this in a country with far fewer people and far fewer guns. Governor Cuomo has a hell of a choice to make a year from now. He may have to either admit that his law has failed, or go ahead and enforce it and take the political consequences.