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By World's Editorial Writers

Lawmakers protect and preserve

During state Senate debate last Tuesday on a bill that would de-claw the anti-cockfighting law approved last fall by a clear majority of Oklahoma voters, one southeastern lawmaker's comment was particularly revealing.

The Senate, by a vote of 29-17, passed Senate Bill 835, which would send the new anti-cockfighting law back to the state ballot in November, 2004, for another vote, this one on whether to reduce violations from felony to misdemeanor offenses and penalties to fine of no more than $500.

Oklahoma voters, of course, knew full well what they were doing when they approved a law that made violations felonies and established penalties that include stiff fines and possible jail time.

During floor debate Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, said that SB 835, by Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, would let voters answer the question: "Do you really want to make felons out of these people?"

His statement shows that he and like-minded lawmakers assume that cockfightinging will continue, regardless of whether it is legal or illegal, and their only interest is to make it as easy as possible for them to continue.

The majority of voters who passed the anti-cockfighting law did not "make felons" out of anybody. Felons are self-made. There is no trick to avoiding a felony offense under the law as approved by voters: just stop participating in cockfights.

Gumm's remark spoke volumes about what he, Shurden and the rest of the Legislature's cockfight contingent think of the voters they promised to represent and the laws they vowed to uphold. Not much.