The Norman Transcript

Columns

March 28, 2014

Using a bazooka to kill a gnat

NORMAN — For seven seasons from 1957 through 1963, actor Richard Boone played a gentleman gunslinger named Paladin in the CBS television series “Have Gun — Will Travel.”

The storyline involved Boone’s character, a highly educated and cultured mercenary whose residence was the Hotel Carlton in Wild West-era San Francisco. Paladin’s business card intimated that he had no qualms about using his Colt .45 revolver or his single action Marlin rifle for hire, wherever his career would take him.

This theme, coupled with a common tendency to engage in “overkill” or use of excessive force or action to achieve a goal, often results in awkward phrasing during the legislative process.

For instance, when an existing law, or even the absence of a law, raises the ire of a constituent, sometimes legislators are called to address a concern. A legislator will often respond by drafting a bill to create or amend a statute to correct the constituent’s perceived problem.

Thorough analysis is time consuming, and frequently the language chosen by a legislator is not properly vetted and is introduced without the legislator being aware of unintended consequences. I sometimes refer to this process as “using a bazooka to kill a gnat.” Others speak of this phenomenon as “cracking pecans with a sledgehammer.” Most cultures and languages have similar idioms. In China, the literal translation is “killing a chicken with a knife intended for a cow,” and the Russian equivalent is “shooting sparrows with cannon.”

You get the picture. Thus, when the phrase “Have Bazooka — Will Travel” is applied to the legislative process, we all need to speak up about the impact of what could become a bad law. Such is the case with House Bill 2620. It contains a total prohibition on the ability of a city or a county to require real property to be registered.

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