Law created in the dark

The new gun-control bill may have been a victory for lawmakers, but it was a defeat for those who believe in open government.

The toughest-in-the-nation gun-control bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo included an expanded assault weapon ban and background checks for buying ammunition, among many other new regulations.

While people will disagree over the wisdom of these new regulations – some of them certainly give us cause for concern – no one should support how this law was created.

As good-government groups and some rank-and-file lawmakers – though not nearly enough – pointed out, the law was created in private meetings and no time was given for close review or public comment. Those lawmakers noted they only saw the bill 20 minutes to two hours before they had to vote.

In a state where it is a common practice for the public comment to be accepted on issues – including proposed legislation – for 30 days, why would lawmakers think it is acceptable to rush this through?

Second Amendment issues are divisive and emotional. This law should have required true consensus; it had to establish a fair compromise that required give and take on both sides of the issue.

People wanted to get a sense of what was being changed and, more importantly, the reason for doing it.

Instead, the law was essentially passed in two days after basically being created in secret. Now, gun owners are struggling to understand exactly what the law requires them to do, while knowing the politicians – their elected representatives – didn’t care to hear what they had to say.

Cuomo and legislators who supported the measures seemed interested in getting political attention. They’ll be able to run campaign ads touting how they voted for the nation’s first gun-control bill since the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. They can say they acted before the federal government did, beating President Barack Obama’s new proposals by a day.

What should be noted when these lawmakers campaign – especially if Cuomo is touting the law while making a bid for the presidency in 2016 – is how they decided they didn’t need the public’s opinions before approving a law drafted in secret.

It’s a shame politicians who claim they listen to the people adopted the gun-control bill in such an irresponsible manner.

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