New York's New Gun Controls Make the PATRIOT Act Look Like a Model of Legislative DeliberationSubmitted by fonzdrew on Tue, 01/15/2013 - 21:48
Last night, by a vote of 43 to 18, the New York State Senate, which is run by a coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, approved the new gun restrictions demanded last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including a seven-round limit on magazines (down from 10) and a broader, California-style ban on "assault weapons." Today the New York State Assembly, controlled by Democrats, followed suit by a vote of 104 to 43, allowing Cuomo to sign the legislation less than a week after he asked for it in his State of the State address last Wednesday—especially impressive given that yesterday was the first full day of the new legislative session. "The guns package was negotiated privately by the governor and legislative leaders over the last several weeks," The New York Times reports, "but was only completed late Monday," so "rank-and-file Senators had only a few minutes to read the legislation before voting on it."
By comparison, the panicky passage of the PATRIOT Act was a model of legislative deliberation. While six weeks passed between 9/11 and George W. Bush's signing of the PATRIOT Act, only four passed between the Sandy Hook massacre and Andrew Cuomo's signing of New York's new gun controls. And unlike the New York legislature, Congress was actually in session during that period.
Such "unusual haste" (as the Times describes it) deviates from the normal rule, laid out in Article II, Section 14 of the New York Constitution, that at least three days must elapse between the introduction of a bill and a vote on it. The constitition allows an exception when the governor publicly explains "the facts which in his or her opinion necessitate an immediate vote." Here is Cuomo's explanation:
Some weapons are so dangerous, and some ammunition devices so lethal, that New York State must act without delay to prohibit their continued sale and possession in the state in order to protect its children, first responders and citizens as soon as possible. This bill, if enacted, would do so by immediately banning the ownership, purchase and sale of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices, and eliminate them from commerce in New York State.