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N.Y. gun law

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s poll ratings took a double-digit dip after passage of the state’s new gun control law. The governor attributes the drop in his approval rating from an all-time high of 74 percent to 50 percent to a lack of understanding of the law, which has a lot to do with the way it was enacted.

The law broadened the definition of banned assault weapons to restrict sales, requires background checks on private sales of guns, limits magazine clips to no more than seven rounds and requires handgun owners to renew their license every five years.

The new gun law rushed through in the middle of the night without advance notice has outraged legitimate gun owners, who question how it will be enforced and its impact on their right to own a gun. With no opportunity to review the law beforehand, they have taken their concerns to public hearings conducted by state law enforcement officials to explain what the law says. Speakers had to be set up outside one session in LaFayette so an overflow crowd standing outside could hear the proceedings.

Gov. Cuomo said gun owners will be more comfortable once they understand the law. “The more that they understand the law and the more they hear about the law, the better they are going to feel because it has nothing to do with the legitimate ownership of a gun,” he said.

Private gun owners, however, are not alone in their confusion. The lawmakers who enacted NY Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act are having problems too and are preparing chapter amendments to clarify some provisions before it takes effect in April.

One measure would address gun owners’ concerns by stipulating that they will not have to pay a fee to reregister their weapons. A second amendment would specifically exempt law enforcement from the seven-round limit on high-capacity ammunition magazines since many officers carry weapons that hold more than 10 rounds.

The need for clarity and understanding might have been avoided, if normal legislative procedures had been followed. Gov. Cuomo waived the constitutionally required three-day waiting period for bills to be considered. Senators had barely 20 minutes to review the law drafted in secrecy by the governor and legislative leaders before voting as midnight approached. The next day the Assembly devoted five hours to debate before passing the law.

The entire process was marked by a lack of transparency. Much of the confusion and misunderstanding on the part of the public and lawmakers could have been cleared up through committee hearings and public input, if the legislation had not been fast tracked.

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