William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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TOUGHNESS – AT 8:46 A.M. ET:  Back in the 1950s there was a commanding general of NATO named Lauris Norstad, a U.S. Air Force officer.  It was a time when the word "toughness" was very much in vogue in international relations.  Members of Congress would speak endlessly about how we had to be "tough" with the Russians and the Chinese.

Norstad commented, wisely, that toughness was not a policy.  You had to decide what to be tough about.

We are now confronted with the word again, this time in relation to gun control.  And so the state Senate here in New York last night passed measures immediately described by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who hopes to be President Cuomo, as the toughest gun-control provisions in the country.  The lower house of our legislature – although which one is lower is debatable – should follow suit today, and Cuomo will then have a signing ceremony, probably a catered affair.  He will undoubtedly have victims of gun violence there, and hug them. 

It was clear to political observers that Cuomo wanted to be the first governor to act on the new gun-control craze, and even wanted to beat out President Obama.  Here are the provisions of the new law:

Further restrict assault weapons to define them by a single feature. Current law requires two features.

Mandate a police registry of assault weapons.

Establish a state registry for all private sales, with a background check done through a licensed dealer, excluding sales to immediate relatives.

Require a therapist who believes a patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally to report the threat to a mental health director, who would then have to report it to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services. A patient's gun could be taken from him or her.

Ban web sales of assault weapons.

Restrict ammunition magazines to seven bullets, from 10. Current owners of higher-capacity magazines would have a year to sell them out of state. An owner caught at home with eight or more bullets in a magazine could face a misdemeanor charge.

Require stolen guns to be reported within 24 hours. Otherwise, the owner would face a possible misdemeanor.

Increase sentences for gun crimes.

Limit the state records law to protect handgun owners from being identified publicly.

COMMENT:  Wow.  I'm sure criminals are quaking in their boots this morning.  Yup, I'm sure they're making a note to report their stolen guns within 24 hours.  Wouldn't want to face that misdemeanor charge.

And restricting magazines to seven bullets from the current ten.  That's it.  That's the end of gun crime.  I mean, what can you do with seven bullets.

There are some common-sense provisions, like background checks on private sales.  The mental-health provisions seem vague, and I don't see, unless it's in some fine print we haven't been given, any provision for seriously increasing the amount of mental-health information in the database used for background checks.

There are no provisions to increase the security of schools.  Not one dime is allocated.  Brilliant.  Nor is there any provision for mandatory gun training.  You know, the kind of thing the military does.

There is no recognition that gun crimes are unevenly distributed.  They occur largely in certain communities, where effective police action may be a powerful deterrent.  And yet, one of the most successful anti-gun-crime measures taken in New York, New York City's stop-and-frisk program, is under massive legal assault by liberal groups, and has been restricted by an ultra-liberal judge.  Reinforcement of stop-and-frisk could have been included in this "gun control" law, but wasn't.

On balance, some of the provisions make some sense, none would appear particularly effective.  Key common-sense elements are left out, undoubtedly bowing to liberal sensibilities.  Andrew Cuomo will get some publicity.  Few if any lives will be saved.

January 15,  2013