It was the tone-deaf statement of the week.
There was Gov. Andrew Cuomo, explaining a drop in his sky-high approval rating after he pushed through a sweeping new gun law.
“The more they understand the law and the more they hear about the law, the better they are going to feel, because it has nothing to do with the legitimate ownership of a gun,” Cuomo told reporters last week.
If he wanted people to understand the law, he might have given them a chance to read it before the first vote was taken. Or he might have allowed the public to weigh in on its merits before lawmakers approved it. Or he might have considered the idea of ensuring lawmakers actually had time to read the very bill they were voting on.
Heck, the state didn’t even make sure there were enough seats at a meeting to find out what was in the new law. This was not the Empire State at its best.
Just ask Budd Schroeder. At 76, he’s been a competitive shooter since his Army reserve days, when he made the Fort Bragg pistol team in 1961. He’s been advocating for gun rights for almost as long.
To say that people are upset about the way the law was pushed through, he said, is an understatement.
“This was rammed down our throats in a dictatorial fashion,” Schroeder said.
The anger seethed at a midday meeting in Clarence last week, where Schroeder and dozens of others packed a small library room that was clearly too small for the crowd. The outrage was visible.
That meeting and others held across the state were meant as question-and-answer sessions to explain the new rules. They turned into the public vetting that should have happened before any vote was cast.
People have every right to be angry about the way this law was passed.
Cuomo swatted away a three-day waiting period for the bill like it was little more than a nuisance. It’s meant to give people a chance to digest what lawmakers are doing, but governors for decades have used a maneuver meant for emergencies to push bills through before the public gets a good look.
Cuomo said he didn’t want to create a run on guns. It’s also likely he wanted to quickstep past the powerful gun lobby. But choosing to push through bills this way gives the appearance he’s more interested in getting his will obeyed than he is in letting in transparency.
Schroeder thinks the way this was passed is a prime example of why citizens in the state need the ability to force a referendum on legislation. But Schroeder, who has a hand in local conservative politics, is savvy enough to know that idea will never fly.
Power brokers in Albany don’t appear to want the mere public involved in their business. That should concern everyone – whether or not you agree with the new gun law.
The fact that it takes secret meetings to craft bills and dead-of-night votes to make them law is a symptom of a broken system. It’s not how democracy should be done.