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Let it be

By World's Editorial Writers
4/14/2003

Cockfighting compromise eluding lawmakers
Legislators continued wrestling with the cockfighting issue last week with little progress toward a consensus. That should tell them something: Maybe it would be best after all to let the vote of the people stand.

As most readers know by now, voters last November overwhelmingly approved a ban on cockfighting that made the activity a felony and included penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines ranging up to $25,000.

The cockfighting faction has fought hard to block the new ban, heading both to court and to the Legislature to plead for their cause. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has yet to act on the issue, but the Legislature sprang into action, producing two bills that would bust cockfighting violations down to a misdemeanor and dropping the fine to only $500.

Supporters of the ban fought back, arguing -- correctly -- that strong disincentives are needed to keep practitioners from continuing with the bloodsport.

Lawmakers appear to be in a quandary over the subject. Most seem to agree, despite the voters' sentiments, that the activity should be a misdemeanor, at least on first offense. This thinking on the part of lawmakers is puzzling, especially since the trend across the nation has been to make animal cruelty and mistreatment a felony. But there's not much to be gained in trying to understand the thinking of politicians.

Agreement has been elusive, though, over what level of fines should be assessed. Voters wanted minimum fines around $2,500, but for some reason, some lawmakers have trouble with that level.

Lawmakers ought to forget about undoing the vote of the people and just let it be, especially in light of the fact they can't seem to agree among themselves on what an acceptable alternative should be. There never was any good reason for tampering with the people's decision, and that's more true now than ever.