Cuomo Defends Gun Control Plan in Feisty Debate With Dicker

(Photo: Getty)

(Photo: Getty)

New York Post columnist Fred Dicker, who’s normally a big fan of Andrew Cuomo, has blasted the governor in recent days for rushing through a gun control bill at the beginning of Albany’s 2013 legislative session. This morning, the two of them faced off in a fiery back-and-forth on Mr. Dicker’s radio show, where the host argued it was an unusually “divisive” piece of legislation.

“This bill takes peoples’ rights away. Now, it may be a minority, but it is a substantial minority. And a great many people are upset about that, as you know. And if you think about it, I don’t know if you can recall a time in your lifetime, where a law was passed that took away your rights,” Mr. Dicker contended. “For many of these gun-owning people, as you know, this is about our Constitution, our founding fathers, many of them are people of great principle. They love our country and they see themselves as under attack. Are you aware of that kind of deep-seated feel and what do you say to people who have that kind of sentiment?”

Mr. Cuomo, of course, was unswayed by Mr. Dicker’s argument, and pointed to support in the polls to say the bill wasn’t really “divisive” at all.

“Yeah. I think–look, Fred, on this one. I know you’ve been talking about it for a couple days,” Mr. Cuomo began. “I’m aware of your opinion on it. I was aware of your opinion before this issue, and I respect it. On this we’re going to agree, I think, to disagree. First, when you say ‘divisive.’…I think you’re trying to say ‘passion’ more than ‘divisive.’ Because it’s not that divisive….If the question is divisiveness, this is overwhelmingly popular. That’s what [Siena pollster] Steve Greenberg found. That’s what everyone finds. It’s 73 percent of the people.”

“But the oppression of the minority is what restraint of government is all about!” Mr. Dicker interupted. “I mean, if you always governed by minority rule, you’d have people with their heads chopped off!”

Mr. Cuomo proceeded to point out that he views the Second Amendment as a right that had been “limited” by government in the past. He pointed to restrictions preventing convicted felons from owning guns as an example of this.

“The Second Amendment is a right and government has no business interfering with that right, that’s the argument. What I would say is, ‘Look, I understand that.’ But government has–quote, unquote–has ‘limited’ that application. We say, if you’re a felon, you can’t have a gun! Well, where does it say that in the Constitution? Where does it say that?”

Mr. Dicker resisted this frame and said Mr. Cuomo was using a logical fallacy by pretending his critics believe something so absolute.

“I think you’re setting up the straw man,” Mr. Dicker countered. “These people aren’t arguing absolute rights.”

“So it’s reasonable regulation,” the state’s executive pushed back. “Then we get to, yes, you have the right to have a handgun, but you have to register it. And the government has to approve your permit. Reasonable regulation.”

And so the two continued, debating the specific advantages of, for example, the merits of limiting magazine capacity to 7 bullets instead of the current maximum of 10. Mr. Cuomo then accused his critics of making their own logical mistake, the slippery slope fallacy, in the belief that government, empowered by recent gun control measures, will seek to ban all guns.

“Their fear is greater than [bullets]. Their fear is worse than that, as I always used to say. They want to say, now camel’s nose under the tent on the number of bullets, camel’s nose under the tent on, ‘You eventually want to eliminate guns in this society!'” Mr. Cuomo exclaimed, with a chuckle. “You made me register a handgun, now you’re banning an assault weapon. Next, you’re going to come with a semiautomatic shotgun, which is my hunting gun.”

Invoking Godwin’s law, Mr. Dicker took exception to Mr. Cuomo’s slight laughter.

“Look, it’s happened in history,” Mr. Dicker said. “I wouldn’t make so much light of it. I don’t see it happening now, I’m not one of the people thinking we’re on the verge of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, but that could happen. You don’t know what the future is going to bring”

“I’m not making light of it,” the governor replied. “I’m saying it’s a passionate argument.”

After devoting much of their discussion to gun policy, the two used what was left of the interview’s remaining time on topics like the budget and Mr. Cuomo’s highly anticipated “Adirondack Challenge.”