For those who doubt legislatures can move with breathtaking speed, just look at the one in New York. The state senate there — which is controlled by Republicans — passed a sweeping set of gun-control measures last night, as Robert VerBruggen noted, by a vote of 43 to 18. Senators had only a few minutes to read the bill before voting on it. The normal three-day waiting period between introduction of new bills and votes on them was tossed in a trashcan. The Democratic state assembly will likely take up the measure and pass it this morning. It will then be signed into law by Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo, who defended the haste by saying, “If there is an issue that fits the definition of necessity, I believe it’s gun violence.” New York mayor Michael Bloomberg swept away objections to the bill by saying: ”This is not a constitutional question, it’s a question of political courage.”
Actually, it’s a question of political expedience. The bill continues some worthwhile provisions, such as requiring mental-health professionals to report when they believe that patients are likely to harm themselves or others. Most of the anti-crime measures tossed into the bill are meaningless — such as increased penalties for bringing a gun into a schoolyard, which is already a serious felony charge. But the bill is filled with provisions that will otherwise do little to keep guns out of the hands of people with violent tendencies. Gun licenses for law-abiding owners will have to be renewed every five years, far less time than most drivers get to renew their licenses.
The law’s ban on some so-called assault weapons is nonsensical. All such weaponry terminology means is that they are semi-automatic weapons (which most guns are) with some military-style external features. Current law in New York bans all rifles that have two military-style features — such as a pistol grip and a bayonet mount. The new law will ban all rifles with just one assault-weapon feature. That will mean the AR-15 Bushmaster rifle used in the Newtown shooting will be banned, but a similar rifle without its pistol grip will still be allowed for sale. The law’s assault-weapon provisions are nothing more than political grandstanding.
I spoke with Mike Long, the chairman of New York’s Conservative party, last night. He shook his head at the prospect that New York’s state senate would pass gun-control measures after his party’s endorsements helped Republicans narrowly retain control of that body last November. “The senators tell me that their voters won’t vote for liberal Democrats running against them over this issue because they’re just as bad,” he told me. “What they forget is that they can not vote for them or vote for a third-party candidate running against them.” He recalled that three out of four state-senate Republicans who broke their pledges to oppose gay marriage in 2011 wound up being forced out of their seats.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that New York’s state senate has become nothing more than a RINO preserve. In the case of Second Amendment rights, Senate Republicans didn’t even bother to serve as a speed bump against the hysterical effort to pass something legislators could call “gun control.”