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Tulsa World

Cockfighters still pecking at new law
2002-11-11

Cockfighting was banned in Oklahoma by a decisive vote of the people on Tuesday. But some cockfighters and their supporters are having a hard time coming to grips with the vote.

State Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, one of cockfighting's loudest supporters in the Legislature, said following the vote that he will introduce a bill to reduce penalties for violating the new law -- to misdemeanor from felony.

Gov.-elect Brad Henry, a Democrat, who during the campaign sided with cockfighters in opposing the ban, promised to look at Shurden's legislation but did not commit to pushing for its passage.

And on Friday cockfighters got a district judge in southeastern Oklahoma to restrain the state from enforcing the law.

The restraining order should be dusted off in short order. The new law is similar to laws that have stood the test in other states and it has already passed muster with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

As for the Legislature and governor, it would be unwise to try to weaken the cockfighting ban in any way. More than unwise, it would be an outrage. The people have spoken and 56 percent of those who voted favored the ban and the stiff penalties it includes.

The Legislature, which could, after all, have passed its own law at any time over the past 30 years, is obligated to follow the will of the people.

Lessening the severity of the penalty is nothing more than a concession to anticipated lawbreakers. Tough penalties will be a hardship only for those who break the law.

There should be no confusion on this. Stop conducting chicken fights. Stop training and equipping birds to fight. Stop transporting birds to fights. It is ridiculous to fret that someone might be prosecuted merely for having a few roosters scratching around in the barnyard.