SAFE Hysterics

I vaguely remember a White Plains police officer visiting my elementary school to instruct us on safety or being polite or some other inculcation of “how to be a civilized person”. Most of the boys in my class, myself included, were fascinated with the handgun the officer carried on his Batman-like utility belt. He was peppered with questions about how he likes it, whether he’s ever shot it, whether he’s ever had to use it, whether he’s ever shot anyone with it, and – naturally, whether we could touch it. The answers were all in the negative. Yet something stuck with me that day; not only had the officer never used the gun in the line of duty, but his respect for his weapon was matched only by his dislike for it. He hadn’t used it, and he expressed a hope that he would never have to. It was there, but only as a last resort – and he seemed aware that it wasn’t just loaded with bullets, but that each bullet could do as much damage to a human body as it could to the officer’s own psyche. 

Forget Sandy Hook and the federal government for a second – let’s talk about New York and the SAFE Act, which Albany passed a month ago. A lot of New York gun owners are upset about the law, and they will be going to Albany lawfully to protest it. They seem particularly aggrieved by the fact that; (a) Governor Cuomo executed a message of necessity, speeding the passage and avoiding legislators’ amendments to it; and (b) the technicalities with respect to some of the law’s definitions. 

You can disagree with those matters, of course, but they don’t amount to dictatorship, nor do they seem violative of the 2nd Amendment

Here is a nonbinding resolution that the Erie County Legislature’s Republican caucus will be introducing shortly: 

SAFE ACT Resolution by

(You don’t use an apostrophe to pluralize “New Yorkers”)

So, basically it praises every single portion of the NY SAFE Act, except that the definition of an assault weapon may allegedly include one particular pump-action shotgun (a particularly tenuous argument), and because it limits magazines to 7 bullets, rather than the previous 10. 

How is it that 10 bullet magazines are not violative of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, but 7 bullet magazines are tantamount to King George III stepping on the necks of patriots? 

Carl Paladino sponsored a bus trip / gun rally in Albany Tuesday, and his mass email doesn’t think the SAFE Act was legally passed, or a good idea at all. One unifying theme between Paladino and the County Legislature’s Republicans is the notion that there wasn’t enough time to “request and receive the input of constituents” regarding the law; but 2/3 of New Yorkers support it. Paladino’s list of grievances is amusing, however, for alleging that “there is no need for any change to current gun-control laws because it’s not the honest people who commit crimes.”  

You know what might be contributing to the gun violence? The Randian individualism that many gun huggers love – the ethos that nothing is greater than self, civilization and a functioning society be damned. The hippie peace and love individualist awakening has gone dramatically wrong in the last 40-some years. 

Another favorite argument is that registration is just a step towards confiscation. Just like the state has confiscated all our motor vehicles, which we are required to register from time to time. 

While Paladino’s protest reflects exactly how our system is supposed to work – government does something you don’t like, you protest and petition or agitate for something different, the legislature’s grandstanding is an utter waste of time and effort. Its nonbinding resolution is pointless, and its grievances largely without substance. 

Back to that mid-70s White Plains cop – I get the impression nowadays that gun owners have become gun huggers. They no longer view their weapons as tools they may someday be forced to use as a last resort for protection, but as objects for which they have almost a jealous longing.  They want to use them. 


  • I note that your only defense of the irresponsibly fast passage of this bill is that it is popular. Ignoring for a moment the abuse of power necessary to grease the skids, or the effectiveness of the law (good for making us feel better, bad for actually making anyone safer), the popularity of a law should have nothing to do with the legislative passage. Government existing to protect the rights of the minority and all that. This kind of law-making is good for no one, and “grandstanding” is how politicians protest when not given the opportunity to do so officially as part of the established procedure.

    • Bills get passed with a message of necessity all the time. There’s nothing irresponsible about it – it’s commonly done. The argument SAFE law opponents make against that “celerity” is that people didn’t have an opportunity to say something. But if 2/3 of them support it, and it passed both houses rather overwhelmingly, what difference would it have made? People can be heard now.

      As for the law, the legislative republicans find more to like than not. That’s pretty good, considering.

      • You don’t think there is anything odd about a body that rarely produces a budget on time and takes months to think about tax-credits doing this in a day? Why wasn’t the gay-marriage bill passed in such a way? That’s seems at least as necessary – expanding freedoms should be done with all haste, restricting them should be considered carefully.

          • The message may not be uncommon (I defer to you), but the one day “debate”/vote/sign was, no? Guns are at least as controversial as same-sex marriage, and I think the latter benefited from the public debate that changed minds. A one-day fiasco on gun control plays into the fears of the “huggers” and helps justify their paranoia.

          • Every time a message of necessity is executed, you get the one day debate/vote/sign and no possibility of amendment to the bill. Basically, people are upset about it because they disagree with the outcome and they happen to be paying attention. The Brennan Center people have been complaining about them for years. 

          •  No, you’re ignoring Mr. Castner’s serious and process-focused arguments. He may well think that the bill is wrong in itself, but that doesn’t disqualify him from talking about the process. His argument about same-sex marriage is very much to the point. 

            It’s always disheartening to see liberals forgetting their liberal focus on democracy and procedure when they happen to be winning. Why aren’t more liberals upset by Waco, by Wilson Goode’s aerial bombing of MOVE headquarters, and about President Obama’s campaign of drone murder?

  • I think you’re right that the more enthusiastic gun owners have an odd relationship with their guns, but I don’t think it’s that they want to use them. If it came down to it and these folks actually needed to use their gun to defend themselves from government tyranny, the vast majority would never stop shitting their pants. Guns are a kind of totem or fetish that represents freedom for these folks.

  • Messages of  Necessity have become very uncommon and Governor Cuomo stated he was against using them except in the most crucial situations.  What he does is take the most controversial bills that have a huge political upside for him with primary voting Democrats and issue the message so he can lay claim to just how important that bill was.  Same Sex marriage and SAFE ACT, both of which I really don’t have a problem with, did not require messages.  The bills could have aged three days and passed. 

    I appreciate some of the gun owner’s concerns and think there would have been something to be said for holding some hearings on the legislation and trying to get some reasonable input.  BUT, if you want to present logical legislative arguments, having asshole Carl Paladino lead your rally makes the vast majority of us….including Republicans like me….think you must be bat shit crazy.  As mama always said, you’re judged by the company you keep.


  • The argument that limiting gun magazines is infringing on the 2nd amendment is bullshit.  Fish and game management has limited the number of shots for years.  Duck hunters are limited to 3 shots.  If a shotgun has a 5 shot capacity you put 2 plugs in.  But somehow limiting magazines used in weapons for the sole purpose of killing human beings is an infringement?  Bullshit.  Rare is the person who is in favor of denying someone the right to protect themselves.  But do we need military style weaponry to do it?  This to my mind has less to do with self protection and more to do with machismo.  The right to feel tough and run around the woods with an assault weapon and a hard on blasting cans and such.  Grow up people.  Your right to bear an erection does not weigh equally with the right of the rest to not wonder when is the next slaughter.  

    • jimd54, the second amendment is in place to prevent against a tyrannical government. History had shown the writers of the Constitution repeatedly that prior to a government turning totalitarian it always disarmed its citizens; and in the last century history repeated itself several times with disastrous results. If the American people decide that this protection is no longer required or that this protection results in more harm than good, the proper course of action is a new amendment that abolishes the second amendment – not underhanded legislation passed in the middle of the night. Also, there is absolutely nothing in this act that would prevent the next slaughter. Wether you are in Mexico which has an all out ban on firearms for citizens or Connecticut which has about the toughest gun laws in the country, if a disturbed person decides they are going to commit a mass slaughter there is almost nothing that can be done to stop it. Even if they can’t get their hands on an “assault rifle” (which account for less than 3% of all firearms crimes), they will find another readily available method. Lowering the limit on magazines from 10 to 7 rounds is just another way to hassle law abiding citizens. Classifying a 10/22 as an assault rifle just because it has some accessories on it that make it look scary is a joke. They also claim that there is no “confiscation” in this act. Well, if a plinking rifle like a 10/22 is considered an assault rifle and has to be registered, and if you are not allowed to sell or transfer and assault rifle even to a family member, when the registered owner dies the family MUST turn it in to the State. Isn’t that confiscation?

      • Thank you for the civil discourse.  I am not aware of this legislation or any federal legislation coming down the pike that intends to abolish the second amendment.  The intent, in my view is to limit the ability of someone to wreak such carnage as we have seen recently.  If we as a society are going to accept gun violence as inevitable, then the prudent thing to do is try to mitigate the damage.  Maybe someday we can scan people to discover if they are or will become the next mass murderer.  In the meantime it could be you, it could be me that snaps and goes from law abiding citizen to criminal and there is no way of knowing. As for the process, yes it could have been handled better.  As for lowering the limit on magazines, someone pointed out that 80% of handguns imported to the U.S. will be illegal under this provision.  I do not know if that is accurate, it probably is and is probably why they did it.  Again, the goal is to limit firepower.  As for the concept of confiscation, if you have to turn in one type of weapon but can then go to Walmart and buy another legal type, I don’t know how that can be in the spirit of confiscation.  What I would say though if someone is forced to turn in a weapon they should at least be compensated for it.  That seems fair. Finally, all this speaks to a bigger issue.  A few always ruin it for the many.  Some numbskull couldn’t figure out how to talk on a cellphone while driving so now the privilege is taken from all of us.  A simple cold remedy is abused so now it’s a hassle to get it.  I, a 58 yr old guy with gray hair gets carded at Wegman’s for a pack of beer. Examples can go on and on.   All because of someone else being a jerk.  Anyway Mr Libertarian, nice chatting with you.

        • Jimd54, You are absolutely right about no laws coming down the pike to abolish the second amendment – that is my point. They are doing it the wrong way. They will abolish the second amendment by fiat thru a series of ineffective arbitrary laws. They don’t have the guts to address it directly. If we are to live in a civilized society we need a set of laws that society agrees to be governed by. In the US the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Many criticize the Constitution as being outdated. The framers of the Constitution recognized that this was going to be the case so they gave us the ability to amend the Constitution to fit with the changing times. If we allow singular state governments to write laws in contradiction to the Constitution (without amending it) we may as well just declare ourselves to be a fascist state and move on. The second amendment was put in place to guarantee that the citizens have just as much firepower as the state. If that is not how we want it anymore then we need to abolish the second amendment.
          Again, there is nothing in this bill that would prevent the next tragedy. If you or I snap tomorrow we already have the capacity to do incredible harm to other human beings whether it be ramming your car into a bus load of children or walking into a mall with a pipe bomb. You also illustrated another of my points with the confiscation – if I have to turn in my 10/22 (dangerous only to squirrel sized animals at best) because it has a pistol grip (if I take it off and put a wood stock on it somehow it becomes instantly less lethal) then yes that is confiscation. But that also illustrates my other point on how ridiculous this act is: So they take away a .22 cal rifle from an individual and a year later he snaps, walks into a Walmart (as you suggested) and buys a perfectly legal pump shotgun and a box of 50 3″ magnum buck shot. Too bad for wherever he is going that he wasn’t allowed to keep the .22 because I doubt he will put a few plugs up the tube just to keep it legal. If you don’t like the idea of the few being allowed to ruin things for the many, please don’t support knee-jerk reactionary policies. Has Walmart proofing you for beer cut down on teen alcohol abuse? Have any of the alcohol laws cut down on drunk driving? The answer is no; and all these gun laws will not lower the violent crime rate. If all you are interested in is the WAY people are killed then this might be effective but it will not alter the numbers.

          • I would never ram my car into a school bus.  Do you have any idea what that would do to my insurance rates?  Here’s the thing, we can both create scenarios to bolster our points.  Yes someone could turn in their 22 and buy a shotgun.  Or they could turn in their 22 and think, hell I’m going to turn in my Glock as well.  This is a pointless argument.  The cold hard fact of history tells us the most recent slew of mass murders were committed with high capacity magazines so logic dictates that’s where the law sniffs around. I reluctantly have to disagree with you about the effect of some laws.  I had the misfortune once of getting stuck in a DWI checkpoint.  I say misfortune not because I was drunk but after realizing what was going on I felt like I was not in the United States of America.  I felt my rights were being infringed, but this technique has passed Supreme Court muster and it is effective. I don’t think it is a matter of guts.  The 2nd amendment isn’t going anywhere so the next step is to nibble on the edges.  States that do not wish to acknowledge a woman’s right to choose have been doing it for years.  In Mississippi there exists one clinic that performs abortions, which is on its way out.  The State Legislature has figured out a formula to circumvent the Supreme Court.  So in a country where a woman’s right to choose has been upheld by the Supreme Court, it matters not.  So is it any wonder this will be used on the 2nd amendment?  According to Jane Corwin, legislation is on the way to regulate video games.  There goes the 1st amendment.  If you are a true Libertarian this should give you pause.

          • Jimd, You are confusing me here. It seems like you are trying to walk both sides of the issue. Are you for or against governments nibbling away at our civil liberties? Do you think that what Mississippi is doing is ok? Do you think that NYS should be able to ban a woman’s right to choose as long as they do it slowly and bit by bit? Do you agree with new laws to regulate video games?

          • No I find it offensive.  Particularly Mississippi because it is rooted in religious dogma.  What I’d really like, getting back to the 2nd amendment, is to find a common ground between someone like you that feels civilians should be equally armed to the Armed Forces and someone who would like to abolish the right altogether.  Most people would probably fall in the middle so let’s find that balance and stop wrangling over it.  By the way how would that work?  Would the uber rich have missile silos in their backyards and then go down from there?  The upper crust might have cruise missiles, tanks, gunships etc.  The middle class could only afford, I don’t know, machine guns and a few hand grenades while the bottom rung makes due with army surplus?  That doesn’t seem fair but the hypothetical tyrannical government surely wouldn’t subsidize weaponry against itself so to truly arm ourselves against ourselves a military socialism seems the way to go. Of course having wealthy people arm poor people equally might not work out so well for the wealthy people.  In which case the tyrannical government would have to step in resulting in something of a circular firing squad.  I’m pulling your leg here but  I have never heard that concept before and it strikes me as, well, odd.

          • Well unfortunately wether it is rooted in Catholic religious dogma or Marxist religious dogma, the net effect is the same – when you allow the subversion of established law you lose freedom. Wether it is Bloomberg banning 2 liter bottles of soda from being delivered with a pizza now; NYS moving from 50 rounds to 10 to 7 to 5 to 3 and then eventually to 1; Mississippi moving to ban first this type of abortion and then the next until it is outlawed altogether; the fed’s putting warnings on video games to banning overly violent ones to an outright ban; or the current administration assassinating a 16 year old American citizen without ever filing any charges (let alone giving due process or even a trial in absentia), when you let the government pass all these new laws and regulations at the whims of lobbyists special interest groups you inevitably descend into tyranny. A few years ago I went to buy my kids a sling shot only to be told that they are banned in New York. Why? Probably a good lobbyist from the crossbow pistol industry – I can still buy those for now.

          • Just to be clear, Catholics would be few and far in Mississippi.  Christian fundamentalists and Southern Baptists are more likely to be found.  And Marxist religious dogma makes no sense.  First of all Karl Marx was an atheist.  Secondly Marxism is a socioeconomic construct not a philosophy or theology. Anyway I really tried to absorb the things you said.  I do not agree with your slippery slope argument and that a moderate agreement cannot be achieved.  I also find the reason for the 2nd amendment is to protect ourselves from ourselves dubious.

          • Jimd, first I suppose I should have said Judeo-Christian religious dogma – so I apologize for that. Second, if you look at the psychological rather than just the socioeconomic aspects of Marxism (and to a larger extent communism) you would see that the atheistic aspects are necessitated by the fact that the State becomes God. Look at any totalitarian atheistic government and you will see forced leader worship. The State becomes the giver of life, work, food, prosperity, etc… As far as the slippery slope, would you have seen 10 years ago that Bloomberg would ban 20oz sodas? Or that he would ban the delivery of 2 liter bottles of soda with a pizza order? Or that he would ignore term limits to run as many times as he wants? Or that a president would order the assassination of American citizens without due process? Would you call me crazy to think that some day in NYC you will need to show ID to buy soda and that if you buy more than your allotted amount in a month the government will raise your healthcare costs? Think it can’t happen here? So did the Germans before the Weimar republic. They were the pinnacle of enlightened society and all it took was an economic collapse to turn them into the Nazis. Think the Jews wouldn’t have liked to defend themselves against themselves? (I know they weren’t fighting other jews but they were Germans first) or think the North Koreans wouldn’t like the opportunity to protect themselves against themselves?

  • The limit to 7 round magazines is significant because it prevents New York residents from purchasing about %80 of handguns currently available in the market. If you knew anything about guns (other than what you know you don’t like about them) then you’d know that %80 of handguns sold in the US come with 8 and 10 round magazines from factories around the world, as a result of the 1994 Federal ban on large capacity magazines, which limited the magazine capacity to 10. Manufacturers are not going to re-tool their production line to make 7 round magazines just so they can sell their warez to customers in 1 state. This is where the objection to the 7 round limitation on magazine capacities is rooted.

  • Perhaps this isn’t all about guns.  Perhaps it’s about government getting involved in another aspect of our lives – except this one is protected by a part of the US Constitution.
    How much water is allowed through our toilets.
    Flight data recorders in our automobiles.
    Drones over US soil.
    What kind of light bulbs we have access to.
    Motorcycle helmets.
    Seatbelts in cars.
    Killing Americans without due process. (see drones)
    No trans fats.
    How much salt in food.
    Maximum of 15oz soft drinks.
    Flow rate of shower heads.
    Airbags in automobiles.
    No plastic bags.
    No paper bags.
    Eight troopers on the Youngman at the same time.
    None in our neighborhood.
    Red light cameras.
    Tin horn preservationists given sway by the government.
    Now another law passed without consent of the governed and absolutely, positively without thought.  Law enforcement laments it.  County legislatures lampoon it.  Even mental health experts question its’ effectiveness.
    Couple that with the cowards who passed the law.  Cuomo living with armed troopers around him.  A big supporter – Bloomburg – with a phalanx of armed guards around him.  Why should those of us not able to pay for that not have at least a chance at self protection?  When seconds count – the police are minutes away.
    Don’t go to the ‘assault weapon’ crap either.  A Red Ryder Range Model BB Gun (with a compass in the stock) is an ‘assault weapon’ in the wrong hands.  A miniscule number of shootings occur with a rifle of any kind.  Focusing on black guns is a red herring.
    If the anti-gun posers (actually desiring confiscation) wish to discuss the issue they would do so instead of passing legislation in the dead of night under a phony deadline.  It is pretty clear that the anti-gunners have thought about things and well know their position is both illogical and unconstitutional.  Therefor the only way to act on their agenda is in the dark.
    The problem is that this usurpation of another freedom is protected by the Bill of Rights.

    •  Perhaps the government is not to blame.  Maybe we should look in the mirror.  Just about every usurpation of another freedom is the result of someone being an idiot.  For instance I can quite comfortably talk on my cell phone while driving.  But enough nitwits don’t seem to be able to and poof, there goes my privilege.    Living in Florida in the 70’s it was commonplace to stop after work at a 7-11, get a single beer to go and drink it on the way home.  Never bothered anyone but poof.  So here it is, so called law abiding gun owners have their noses out of joint because the State responded to the shrill cry of citizens in the wake of horrific slaughter.  What the hell did you think would happen? 
      I am sure there are plenty of people who would like the 2nd amendment to go away.  I don’t happen to be one of them.  I owned handguns in Florida and own rifles here.  Never did I find a need for high capacity magazines for self defense.  To my mind they belong on the battlefield and are a scourge on our society.  So please stop pointing fingers at the “government” and direct your energy at the few who ruin for the many.

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