EDITORIAL: Gun law meeting in Fulton County carries a message

Montgomery County Sheriff Jeff Smith talks to the crowd assembled at the Pine Tree Rifle Club in Johnstown about upcoming changes in the state'e concealed carry laws on Monday, July 25, 2022.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Montgomery County Sheriff Jeff Smith talks to the crowd assembled at the Pine Tree Rifle Club in Johnstown about upcoming changes in the state'e concealed carry laws on Monday, July 25, 2022.

Let this be a lesson to Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature.

This is what you get when you rush through complex, controversial legislation without fully researching the impacts, without listening to people with extensive knowledge on the subject, and without allowing the people and their representatives to air their views before passing it.

On Monday, nearly 300 people in the Fulton County town of Johnstown, population 8,200, gave up their summer evening to hear local and state officials discuss the state’s controversial new concealed carry law.

The law — which places significant new restrictions on where residents with concealed carry licenses may carry weapons and how they may legally obtain permits — was approved during an unnecessary and hastily called two-day special session of the Legislature right before the Fourth of July weekend.

Lawmakers arrived in Albany on a Thursday without having even seen specific language of the bill. But by Friday evening, they had passed a bill that the governor didn’t release to the public until Friday morning. Hochul signed the bill late Friday night.

We criticized the special session both before and after, saying there was no legislative or public safety reason to rush the law, since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that precipitated it wasn’t going into effect right away, nor was the new law they were passing.

This was purely a political move to rush through legislation without scrutiny so the governor and legislators could rebuff accusations that they were weak on crime.

The outcome of this way of passing critical legislation is what happened on Tuesday in Johnstown. The event featured organizers passing out voter registration forms.

This kind of meeting is likely to be repeated elsewhere across the state, where upset and confused residents will complain and ask questions about how the law will affect them.

Had Hochul and the Democratic Legislature done the right thing, by promoting a comprehensive discussion and debate of the law over time in public, they would not have averted the controversy.

But they would have been able to address questions about the justification for the law based on actual statistical analysis, countered potential legal challenges that might be raised, and been able to fully explain details of the law.

Instead, they’ve got hundreds of people in lawn chairs, many of them potentially armed, challenging not only the contents of the law, but the validity of it.

There are consequences to treating the public this way. Gatherings like this one are one of them. Stirring up residents to vote against you is another.

Lesson learned? Probably not.

At least not until November.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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