Wait For It . . .
So New York’s stringent new gun-control law bans guns or magazines capable of holding more than seven shots. Everybody’s safer now, except that — in the Gov. Cuomo-led rush to pass the bill — nobody thought to exempt the police, making all those Glocks felonious.
Well, sure, that was pretty embarrassing, but they can easily fix a little screw-up that sneaks into a law. Does that undermine the notion that there is a problem in need of a solution now, before anyone else is harmed?
After every tragedy, legislation gets rushed through that’s typically just a bunch of stuff that various folks had long wanted all along, but couldn’t pass before. Then it’s hustled through as a “solution” to the tragedy, even though close inspection usually reveals that the changes wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy, and don’t even have much to do with it.
The goal, thus, is to prevent close inspection through a combination of heavy-handed legislative techniques and bullying rhetoric: If you don’t want to pass our bill without reading it, you must hate the children.
This has been seen far too often, opportunistic law-making. The iron is hot, so strike. That's how the USA PATRIOT Act was passed sight unseen, Cuomo's new gun law may not be of that magnitude, but enjoyed similarly smooth sailing. The question is whether it's a problem in need of a solution, a solution in need of a problem, or just legislators who read the title of a new law, if that, and vote, neither knowing or caring what all the black, squiggly lines say below.
I’d like to propose a “waiting period” for legislation. No bill should be voted on without hearings, debate and a final text that’s available online for at least a week. (A month would be better. How many bills really couldn’t wait a month?)
And if the bill is advertised as addressing a “tragedy” or named after a dead child, this period should double.
It's risen to the level of a meme that every tragedy involving a child begets a new law, and almost invariably one that either fails to address the actual problem, or is vague and overbroad, or replicates existing law, because two laws addressing the same issue are better than one.
Seriously, legislation is supposed to be a deliberative process. When they don’t want to deliberate, it’s because they’re hiding something. And they’re hiding it because they don’t want you to know about it.
I’d also add another provision: Anytime a “tragedy” bill has to be amended because slipshod legislating led to flaws, the bill to fix it must list the names of those who voted for the original, in bold type, at the beginning under the heading “IDIOTS WHO DIDN’T READ THE BILL OR THINK ABOUT IT BEFORE VOTING.”
In some instances, the failure of lawmakers to either deliberate, or actually read, a bill before voting can be blamed on lack of time. But then, if they had all the time in the world to read the bill before voting, would it change much? They are voting perception, their love of children and hatred of tragedy. People are filled with passion, and they plan to ride that passion wave as far as it will take them. Remember, passion impairs thinking, and there can be no better time to take advantage of it then when emotion run hot.
But even if there was a week, a month, a year to read a bill from cover to cover, to think long and hard about it, how many legislators would? How many citizens, aside from the tiny handful for whom it was primary issue, would? Be real. Reading is a lot of work. Thinking even more. It would make a lot of people's head hurt, and people hate that, especially when they knew from the moment they heard of the tragedy what must be done.
Jeff Gamso brings up a controversial point, following the congressional testimony of former Representative Gabby Giffords.
For those who don't remember former press secretary Jim Brady, who became the embodiment of gun control after being critically wounded during the Reagan assassination attempt, he was the fellow after whom the Brady Bill was named. Giffords is this generation's Jim Brady.
She didn't say what because . . . . Hell, I don't know why. Because she doesn't know what? Because it's more than she can articulate since she was shot? Because it doesn't matter?Violence is a big problem
Too many children are dying
Too many children
We must do something
You know, for the children.
She's right. Violence is a big problem. And too many people are dying.
Even though Giffords may not have enunciated an answer, she struck the emotional chord that something must be done immediately. The stage is set for the people who advocated for or against gun control before the Newtown tragedy occurred. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, they started screaming. Legislators were drowning in passion and heated rhetoric.
While Reynolds' proposition may not serve in every instance, such as when we are about to go over a fiscal cliff and need an immediate stop-gap to prevent a discrete outcome no one wants, it certainly has its merit when it comes to social and criminal legislation in the heat of passion.
But as he notes, it's never going to happen, as the last thing legislators want is a limitation on their ability to pander when an opportunity presents itself. Thoughtfulness and deliberation are hardly strong selling points with an election coming up, as it does every two years.
When will people make it a priority to hold their representative to actually reading a law before they vote on it? Don't be silly. Voters would never expect their representative to do something they wouldn't do themselves. And so we have a lot of laws named after dead children, enacted in the heat of passion because we have to do something, that still haven't made our world perfect. What's one more?