About a month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, New York became the first US state to react to the massacre by introducing a new, tougher gun law.
The new law includes a tougher ban on assault weapons and broadens the definition of what constitutes an assault weapon. It limits the legal size of magazines to seven bullets, compared to the previous limit of ten bullets and introduces legislation to limit mentally ill people’s access to firearms as well as a hike in the fines and prison sentences that the courts can hand out to people caught in possession of illegal firearms.
“I’m proud to be a New Yorker, because New York is doing something, because we are fighting back, because, yes, we’ve had tragedies, and yes, we’ve had too many innocent people lose their lives, and yes, it’s unfortunate that it took those tragedies to get us to this point, but let’s at least learn from what’s happened, let’s at least be able to say to people, yes, we went through terrible situations, but we saw, we learned, we responded, and we acted, and we are doing something about it,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at the signing of the new law.
As could be expected, the nice people at the National Rifle Association weren’t exactly pleased, saying in a statement that they were:
“outraged at the draconian gun control bill that was rushed through … late Monday evening.”
“These gun control schemes have failed in the past and will have no impact on public safety and crime. Sadly, the New York Legislature gave no consideration to that reality. While lawmakers could have taken a step toward strengthening mental health reporting and focusing on criminals, they opted for trampling the rights of law-abiding gun owners in New York, and they did it under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night. The legislature caved to the political demands of a governor and helped fuel his personal political aspirations,” the NRA added.
And while lawmakers and interest groups like the NRA voice their opinions in very long quotes, the reality of the new bill is that the ‘what’ is there, but the ‘how’ seems to be, sadly, missing.
For example keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill is something that most people can agree is a good idea. A person diagnosed as suffering from bi-polar paranoia holding a shotgun could make most of us nervous. And, quite frankly, the basic idea of needing to make it more difficult for such a person to get a hold of the shotgun beggars the question: surely there must have been some way of preventing that for a while? Perhaps through combining a simple database with that there newfangled internet?
Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that the law is full of new legislation that is supposed to punish people once they’re found to break the new, tougher law, but it seems to fall shamefully short when it comes to introducing new ways (or means) for tracking down people or weapons that are illegal. So, in short, it answers the question of what we (if we were the state of ´New York) want to do, but doesn’t say much about how we want to do it.