This week the State Legislature passed and the governor signed into law a far-reaching set of prohibitions, restrictions, and tracking mechanisms regarding guns, which made New York the first state to change its policies in reaction to the Sandy Hook school shootings. In this edition of the Campbell Conversations, Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick discusses how effective some of the provisions could be, some possible problems with their implementation, and which ones might be overturned through subsequent court challenge.
One aspect I pressed him on concerned the administrative and bureaucratic
challenges in implementing the tracking and registration provisions for certain
guns, clips, and all ammunition purchases. His phrase for what was likely to
come was "bureaucratic nightmare," and I think he may not be
I read through the new law's provisions--all 72 single-spaced pages of
them--and I kept wondering how all this was going to get off the ground and in
place within a year. You can bet that one large bone of contention between the
different layers and sectors of government will be who is going to pay for
The other thing that struck me was how far the new provisions extend,
relative to the current situation. For example, one of the most popular
rifles--perhaps the most popular rifle--is
the Ruger 10/22, a
semi-automatic rimfire rifle that most boys
and girls who learned to shoot in recent years probably cut their teeth on. It
is considered by no one to be an assault weapon, but by my reading of the law,
anyone who owns one of them will now have to register with the state police, due
to its 10-round clip.
My guess is that as everyday gun owners (i.e., those without a cache of
AR-15s) become more aware of how far the provisions extend, and the
"bureaucratic nightmare" that the DA predicted ensues, there will be some
buyer's remorse on the part of many who originally went along with the change.
And lawmakers are certainly going to get an earful.
I also wonder whether, over the course of the next couple years, this will
end up doing more harm than good to Governor Cuomo's presidential prospects. It
will have to be one of the main things he runs on, if he does run. The folks in
Mississippi won't like it--we knew that already. But will folks in Iowa and New
Hampshire, or Colorado and Pennsylvania take to it either? The ultimate
political headline for this may be "Governor Passes Sweeping Gun Law,
Shoots Self in Foot."
Author's correction: I'm wrong above about the 10/22 clips needing to be registered; please see the comments section for an explanation. But I stand by the observation that the law's new regulations and reporting requirements are relatively far-reaching, relative to the status quo ante.
Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.
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