When Left and Right Unite Against Our Freedoms, We’re
By Aaron Zelman & Claire Wolfe
What is the difference between Statement A and Statement B below?
A. "The broad
principle that there is an individual right to bear arms is shared by many
Americans, including myself. I'm of the view that you can't take a broad
approach to other rights, such as First Amendment rights, and then interpret
the Second Amendment so narrowly that it could fit in a thimble. But I'm also
of the view that there are limits on those rights. Just as you can't falsely
shout fire in a crowded movie theater, you can put restrictions on who can own
guns and how, when, and where they may be possessed."
* * *
B. "While some have
argued that the Second Amendment guarantees only a 'collective' right of the
States to maintain militias, I believe the Amendment's plain meaning and
original intent prove otherwise. Like the First and Fourth Amendments, the
Second Amendment protects the rights of 'the people' ... Of course, the
individual rights view of the Second Amendment does not prohibit Congress from
enacting laws restricting firearms ownership for compelling state interests ...
just as the First Amendment does not prohibit [laws against] shouting 'fire' in
a crowded movie theater."
* * *
difference in words – no difference in practice.
Senator Charles Schumer uttered Statement A. Supposedly pro-gun Attorney
General John Ashcroft said Statement B.
The Dispute That
At his confirmation
hearings, Ashcroft admitted he agreed with and would enforce all the
restrictions on firearms ownership that Sen. Schumer has worked so
hard to impose over the years. Then, immediately after the Justice Department
declared the individual rights position as its official policy, Ashcroft said
on Larry King Live that he fully supported the Brady Law, calling it a
"reasonable regulation." When sparring in public, Ashcroft and
Schumer look like fierce opponents. Yet they express precisely the
same viewpoints. They advocate stringent enforcement of precisely the same
The Second Amendment declares “the right of the people to keep and bear
arms shall not be infringed.” Schumer and Ashcroft are united against
that principle. Both men support the octopus of federal laws that:
* license owners of some
* forbid firearms
ownership to people who commit non-violent crimes or minor crimes decades ago
* bar importation of
certain guns and accessories
* require federal
personal identification numbers (SSN) for purchase of firearms
* impose immense
paperwork requirements on firearms dealers (technical violations trigger felony
* prohibit possession of
self-defense weapons in public places
* forbid responsible
adults from using arms to protect children against violent attacks in schools
Each of these federal
“gun laws” infringes the right to keep and bear
arms. Schumer on the Left, Ashcroft on the Right, come together to make and
enforce federal laws that violate the Second Amendment. When Left and Right
unite against our freedom, where can we turn? What happens when your
“friends” agree with your enemies? You lose.
It Doesn't Matter
What They Say
Legal scholars refer to
the “individual rights” interpretation of the Second Amendment as
"the standard model." Few serious scholars support the "state's
rights" or "militia rights" position of the anti-gun crowd. Are
we better off because the individual-rights interpretation now prevails in
legal literature and at the Justice Department?
We should be. The change
represents a tremendous philosophical shift toward honesty and liberty. If the
courts employ that interpretation to throw out outrageous anti-gun laws and the
convictions based on them, then we will be better off. Someday.
But we are not better off
so long as politicians and lobbyists cynically use the individual-rights
position to pursue their old, familiar goals of restricting firearms ownership
and punishing firearms owners for harmless, technical violations of obscure
laws. And those are the straits we're in now.
If we are foolish enough to look at their words, rather than at their actions,
then nothing will stop their twisting the English language and betraying our
trust. Distracted by their rhetoric, we, like docile castrated sheep, will
accept whatever injustice – and whatever gun prohibitions – they
choose to inflict next.
* * *
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