Cuomo Needs To Rework Gun Bill

What a mess.

The NY SAFE Act, passed in January in response to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting and the shooting of two volunteer firefighters in Webster, N.Y., was supposed to place New York at the forefront of states protecting their citizens from gun violence. Gov. Andrew Cuomo surely thought it would help him nationally as the Democratic Party looks for presidential candidates to run in 2016. Passing a gay marriage bill, increasing the minimum wage and then having get-tough-on-guns legislation looks great on a progressive candidate’s resume.

As we noted in January, the SAFE Act moved far too quickly. Cuomo and legislative leaders waited the customary three-day waiting period, public input and any floor debate over fears a discussion about gun control would either result in a watered down bill or no bill at all.

It resulted in something worse – massive public outcry and a law seen with no legitimacy by millions of state residents who feel they had no voice in the process.

Their voices are being heard now.

Cuomo’s approval ratings dropped 15 points, and that was before newspaper opinion pages statewide were filled with letters decrying the legislation, before rallies started springing up around the state like spring flowers and before counties began passing resolutions signaling opposition to the gun law. Two legal actions have begun challenging the law on constitutional grounds.

And, because of errors in the original legislation, if no changes are made, police officers’ guns could be illegal. Written permission would be necessary for police to go on school grounds with a loaded weapon. And, the law could stop the production of violent television shows and movies from being made in New York. Cuomo has said he will consider technical amendments to make sure these types of issues are avoided.

He must go further than that.

Revisiting the seven-round limit in an ammunition magazine is a good place to start. Finding a way to write the law so that it doesn’t penalize legal gun owners is also worth discussing. He may even have to budge on the law’s registration provisions, which many gun owners say is the first step down a slippery slope that ends with government eventually taking people’s guns.

It’s the price the governor must pay for short-circuiting the democratic process in January. The longer he holds out, the more he’ll have to pay.