Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Inc.
P.O. Box 270143
Hartford, WI 53027
Phone (800) 869-1884
Fax (425) 451-3959
May 10, 2002
Bush Administration Stance on the Second Amendment:
Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?
The word roared through the Second-Amendment community earlier this week: Solicitor General Theodore Olson had written, in a brief to the Supreme Court, "The current position of the United Sates ... is that the Second Amendment more broadly protects the rights of individuals ... to possess and bear their own firearms."
It was the third time a prominent Bush administration member had taken a similar position. Attorney General John Ashcroft stated the same viewpoint in a letter to the NRA last year. Then in November Ashcroft wrote to federal prosecutors applauding a pro-gun decision in Emerson v. United States.
We, too, would like to cheer this development. And we will. Tentatively.
But above all, this alert is to urge all Second-Amendment advocates to (as Ronald Reagan said) "trust, but verify."
FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS
Without question, Bush adminstration officials have expressed better intentions toward gun owners than any administration from Richard Nixon onward. After the aggressive rights thievery of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the new policy statement is truly a relief.
The fact that this individual-rights position was stated in a brief to the Supreme Court is significant -- far more so than a statement made to a private organization, because of its potential impact on the court's decision and future government policy.
It's crucial to understand that Olson's statement is in no sense the law of the land. But to the degree that it influences court decisions or the decision of prosecutors to bring (or drop) cases, it could eventually be a godsend to peaceable people who run afoul of paperwork violations or face unjust charges for violating federal or state firearms laws. Precedent is a powerful force in U.S. law, and this policy could eventually result in defense attorneys having new tools to defend their clients -- and defend the Second Amendment.
In the most optimistic case, the change of policy could even be the first domino in the toppling of anti-gun laws. As Eric Lichtblau observed in the L.A. Times
"Current state and federal laws subjecting law-abiding citizens to background checks, regulating concealed weapons and banning the purchase of certain guns, such as assault rifles, could all be vulnerable ..." (http://latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-050802guns.story)
Attorney Richard W. Stevens, editor of JPFO's own Bill of Rights Sentinel and co-author of Death by "Gun Control", takes the optimistic position: "I say, hooray for the Justice Department and Ashcroft for moving in our direction, as Ashcroft promised. This position change can potentially affect court decisions nationwide." To those who say the administration hasn't done enough, Stevens adds, "If you don't cheer their moving in the right direction, then what will encourage them to keep moving our way? We criticize them for doing wrong, we praise them for doing right ...and use it to our advantage ... even if their 'right' isn't perfect."
BUT DON'T FORGET TO READ THE FINE PRINT
Unfortunately, the Bush administration's "right" is far from perfect.
Having declared the individual rights position, Olson went on to note in his brief that the right is "subject to reasonable restrictions designed to prevent possession by unfit persons or to restrict the possession ot types of firearms that are particularly suited to crime."
This portion of the statement (consistent with Ashcroft's earlier caveats), suggests that the Justice Department will do nothing to challenge obnoxious background checks, waiting periods, magazine bans, concealed carry restrictions, registration or licensing laws, or restrictions on types of firearms owned.
"Reasonable" restrictions is language straight out of the gun- banners' PR handbook. Is there any restriction that a hoplophobe wouldn't find "reasonable"?
And who is "unfit" to possess a firearm? If this means only violent felons or the violently mentally ill, fine. But if it continues to mean that people with unpaid parking tickets or thirty-year-old misdemeanors are barred from purchasing or owning firearms, then peaceable people are still being denied their rights.
And which weapons are "particularly suited to crime"? A brick, a hammer, a screwdriver, or a rock can, in criminal hands, be "particularly suited to crime." According to the campaigns of various victim disarmers -- campaigns that have too often resulted in the passage of laws -- all of the following have been accused of being "particularly suited to crime":
- Inexpensive handguns ("Saturday-night specials" -- a racist term)
- Expensive handguns with high-capacity magazines
- Semi-automatic rifles
- Short-barrelled shotguns
- Machine guns
- Long-range scoped "sniper rifles" (otherwise known as your deer-hunting gun)
In short, there is no type of firearm that can't be regulated or banned by the government under the Olson standard.
Mssrs. Olson and Ashcroft have uttered hopeful words. But their "fine print" means that total government regulation remains possible. Actions speak louder than words, and we don't see the administration withdrawing its support from any of the unconstitutional laws, regulations, or abusive regulatory agencies that have been imposed upon Americans in the last 70 years.
There is one other aspect to the cheers of the Second-Amendment community that disheartens us. As professional songwriter Dan Starr wrote in an e-mail to JPFO , "Isn't it amazing that we are cheering the decision by the government to respect exactly what they pledged to uphold when they took office?"
In fact, the Second Amendment community has been cheering the administration for doing far less than fulfill its pledge to uphold the Constitution. It has cheered "weasel words" not backed by any solid deeds.
After discussing the potential positive ramificaitions of the Bush policy, Richard Stevens concludes, "All of this takes a lot of time. Meanwhile, the DoJ's position shift gives us a powerful educational tool. We can say, 'Look, we have the two Emerson decisions and the U.S. Department of Justice saying that the Second Amendment protects an individual right. Sayonara, collective right theory -- enjoy eternity in the dust bin.'"
In other words, the new policy should not encourage us to relax, but to work even harder to explain and demand our rights -- to use the momentum created by this development to achieve much, much more than we have in the last painful decades.
Yes, we can cheer with relief that the people currently in the White House and the DoJ don't hate and demonize us as their predecessors did. But we must accept nothing less than the restoration of a true Bill of Rights culture in the United States -- beginning with an authentic respect, expressed in both words and actions, for the guardian amendment that protects the other nine.
So cheer -- and then roar for the return of real freedom.
To learn why there's a better alternative than politics for restoring the Bill of Rights, read "The Last of the BOHICANS" by Aaron Zelman and Claire Wolfe at http://www.jpfo.org/bohica.htm
While everyone's busy fighting little skirmishes, the armored column of the police state is rolling down the middle of the highway, almost unnoticed. If you want to see the big picture of why America and other English-speaking countries are losing freedom, read The State vs. the People: The Rise of the American Police State, by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman. Order The State vs the People for just $19.95 (shipping and handling included -- 10% more in Canada) and receive three "Gran'pa Jack" educational booklets: Gran'pa Jack #2: "Can you get a Fair Trial in America?," Gran'pa Jack #3: "It's Common Sense to Use Our Bill of Rights," and Gran'pa Jack #5: "The United Nations is Killing Your Freedoms!" (a total $10.00 value, free when you order The State vs the People today. (http://www.jpfo.org/tsvtp.htm)
If you want to understand the ultimate progression of "gun control," read Death by "Gun Control": The Human Cost of Victim Disarmament by Aaron Zelman and Richard W. Stevens. It begins with "reasonable measures" to control the unruly; it ends in the death of a thousand cuts - and millions of disarmed citizens. Order Death by "Gun Control" for just $16.95 (shipping and handling included -- 10% more in Canada) and receive Gran'pa Jack #6: "Will 'Gun Control' Make You Safer," and Gran'pa Jack #7:"Do Gun Prohibitionists Have a Mental Problem?" (a total $6.00 value, free when you order Death by "Gun Control" today. (http://www.jpfo.org/deathgc.htm)
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