Monday, June 30, 2008

As Schizophrenic an Editorial as I’ve Ever Read

The Oregonian published what I think has to be the most schizophrenic editorial on the Heller case as I’ve seen. Parts of it seem to be right on the money, and yet other parts of it make me go “huh”? Here’s my take on it:

“Locked and loaded
“The Supreme Court is right to affirm individual gun rights, but be prepared for endless court challenges
“Friday, June 27, 2008 The Oregonian

“Within moments of the Supreme Court's historic ruling on gun rights, bullets flew. The National Rifle Association promised to fire away at gun regulations by filing lawsuits in cities nationwide. Then John McCain attacked Barack Obama as an anti-gun, unpatriotic elitist.

“All this before high noon on the West Coast.”

Okay – off the bat, are we taking just a FEW too many liberties with journalistic imagery here? Obama’s comments on the Heller case were wishy washy to the extreme. Yet the author seems to be saying in the subtitle that he agrees with the decision. Interesting blend of perspectives here.

“The court is right to affirm individual gun rights. But make no mistake: The court's majority of conservative activists deliberately thrust itself into the legislative arena and guaranteed a protracted constitutional fight over every kind of gun regulation, including assault-weapons bans.”

Okay – so what are they, “conservative activists” or judges making the correct call? If they made the right call, then they were duty bound as Justices to thrust themselves into the legislative area and annul the DC laws. Also, why play the “assault weapon” card if they were right (given neither the U.S. nor Oregon place limitations on so-called “assault weapons”)? The editorial seems to be trying (unsuccessfully) to play both sides of the political fence.

“Also, the court's ruling triggers a fierce and potentially explosive fight in the presidential race over gun rights and Supreme Court appointments. Based on McCain's early swipe at his Democratic opponent, this will get ugly fast.”

Despite Obama and the attempts of the Democratic Party to make the Second Amendment a non-issue in this campaign, it’s now an issue. Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, they’ve nominated a candidate just left of Feinstein on Second Amendment issues. It’s politics, you put your money down, roll the dice, and hope you don’t come up snake-eyes.

“The court ruled 5-4 Thursday that a longstanding ban on handguns in Washington, D.C., is overly broad and unconstitutional. The court also struck down the District of Columbia's storage laws for shotguns and rifles, saying that citizens shouldn't be required to use trigger locks or disassemble their weapons.

“This was the Supreme Court's first major ruling on gun rights in nearly 70 years. It was also the court's most aggressive foray into Second Amendment politics in the nation's history.

“The court was correct to define gun ownership as an individual right, rather than merely as a collective right to form militias. For one thing, the right of citizens to arm themselves against tyranny is firmly rooted in American history and cultural identity. For another, the United States is a rare country where citizens grant power to the government -- not the other way around.”

So after all of the hand wringing about assault weapons and the Second Amendment now being a campaign issue, the author indicates that the ruling was correct. The author is also absolutely correct about the cultural underpinnings of not only the Second Amendment but the Constitution itself.

“The court was also correct to point out that these gun rights aren't absolute. As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority, the court didn't overrule "longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

“On the surface, this ruling sounds like a mainstream affirmation of the status quo.”

Which is, as I discussed earlier, one of the disappointing aspects of the case – see previous blog entries.

“In the fine print, the court raises as many questions as it answers.

“Does this ruling apply to state laws? What is the standard for a constitutional gun law? What kinds of mental illness? The Supreme Court has signaled its desire to legislate these issues from the bench, rather than leave them to elected officials.

“Obama and McCain both say they believe in individual gun rights. Both have supported reasonable gun laws in the past. This ruling is an opportunity for them to discuss the root issues here: high crime rates, bolstered by illegal firearms, ineffective policing, inadequate schools and intergenerational poverty.

“This would be a much more interesting conversation than the one we're about to get sucked into -- the one about the Pro-Gun Patriot versus the Anti-Gun Elitist.”

So the editorial ends where it began, with no clear thesis other than the author doesn’t want to see the extreme positions battle it out. However, Obama to this point hasn’t seen a gun control law he hasn’t like, whereas McCain’s record is far less spotty and his current platform is very solid when it comes to the Second Amendment.

If anything, this article seems to be written by, if not a pro-gun, at least a reality accepting Democrat who has realized that the “slam dunk” originally forecast in November is now in jeopardy because the Second Amendment is back on the table as a campaign issue. Expect the debate to continue, especially as more lawsuits are filed in response to the Heller decision.

Until next time!

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