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When Left and Right Unite Against Our Freedoms, We’re Hosed

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."

* * *

Answer: Little difference in words – no difference in practice.

Notoriously anti-gun Senator Charles Schumer uttered Statement A. Supposedly pro-gun Attorney General John Ashcroft said Statement B.

The Dispute That Isn’t There

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 laws.
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 guns

* 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 prosecutions)

* 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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While everyone's busy fighting little skirmishes, the armored column of the police state rolls unnoticed down the middle of the highway. To learn how and why America is steadily losing freedom, read The State vs. the People: The Rise of the American Police State. Order the book for just $19.95 (postage paid – Canada add 10%) and receive three "Gran'pa Jack" educational booklets (a total $10 value) free.

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