So, the New York state legislature passed a new gun control law in less than a day and Governor Cuomo signed it shortly after, giving New York the distinction of being the first state to toughen its gun laws since the mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
Cuomo, who has an impressive record of getting what he wants, pushed the gun law through very, very quickly. He used a ‘message of necessity’ to get an immediate vote on it rather than have the law sit for the usual minimum of three days. Cuomo probably figured, rightly, that any delay would be exploited by anti-gun control forces, who have made an art of outlasting public outrage after mass shootings, stalling until the momentum for even modest reform dies.
But rushing means some things got done sloppily, or explained poorly. One that I spent some time thinking about today, because it did strike me as overreach, was Cuomo’s decision to limit clip sizes to seven bullets instead of 10. I’m not a shooter, but I have done enough reading – and know enough people who are gun enthusiasts – to know that the standard size for a clip, nationwide, is 10. Obviously, you can buy bigger. And in New York, deer hunters are required to use clips of no more than five rounds. But 10 is the ‘generic’ clip size, mostly because it’s the number used by states with strong gun control.
In fact, one of the guys I work with – an engineer, very bright, cautious by temperament – was cursing Cuomo to the rafters this afternoon, mostly because of the clip restrictions. This man, who is conservative but by no means an extremist, was incensed because that one act of reducing the clip size by three bullets threatened his gun collection, and at least technically could make him a criminal.
I had read about the clip restriction in several places, including the Associated Press wires and the New York Times, and it struck me as odd on the face of it. No one makes seven round clips, and it seemed unlikely that a lot of manufacturers would jump into the business just to serve the New York market. Besides, a difference of three bullets is a lot less consequential than, say, the difference between a 30 round magazine and a 10 round one.
My co-worker made a good point. He said it would drive people into the arms of the NRA because the clip restriction is so unfair. Except watching cable tv tonight, one of Cuomo’s men explained something that puts the restriction in a whole ‘nother light: it turns out that existing clips are grandfathered in, so people will still be able to use them. True, you can’t put more than seven rounds in one, but the main point holds: you won’t have to get rid of the clips you already own. The distinction is a fairly big deal, but I never saw this detail anywhere else as I followed the story closely all day. If, as I suspect, the clip limitation is what will stick in the throats of gun owners, then the Cuomo administration needs to get out front on the issue, explain that the police aren’t coming for your clips. Otherwise, the blowback from Cuomo’s well-intentioned law could affect other states, or the upcoming federal debate – and that would be a shame.