THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 132, August 6, 2001
Did I Mention, Let's Secede?
The Hypocritical Post
by Jeff Elkins
Exclusive/Special to TLE
The recent passing of Kay Graham left the world of journalism in a tizzy. She was hailed as a giant of publishing; it seemed that almost every ink-stained wretch in existence paid obeisance in print, applying lips to the Washington Post boot with every paragraph.
While it would be wrong to wish Mrs. Graham any personal animus, it would be good to remember that her publishing empire was and remains solidly statist and had been forever. It would be hard to find a socialist cause that the Post didn't fully support or any expansion of statism that didn't find the Post as fervent cheerleaders.
Most especially, the Washington Post and all its print and broadcast tentacles hate guns in the hands of ordinary Americans.
In a recent house editorial, "Mr. Ashcroft and the NRA", the venerable Post trots out all the old, tired truisms of the victim disarmament crowd and adds a few new wrinkles.
Quoting the Post:
"Attorney General John Ashcroft, in a recent letter to the National Rifle Association, stated that the "text and original intent of the Second Amendment clearly protect the right of individuals to keep and bear firearms." The amendment, in his view, protects this individual right "just as the First and Fourth Amendments secure individual rights of speech and security respectively." Mr. Ashcroft's remarkable statement has delighted the NRA, which put his face on the cover of the July issue of its America's 1st Freedom magazine."
While I hold no particular brief for Attorney General Ashcroft, (please see my Lew Rockwell column, "Ashcroft's Lies") how the Post could brand his lukewarm support of the 2nd Amendment as "remarkable" is in itself astounding. It's become increasingly obvious that thinking constitutional scholars (are any present on the Supreme Court?) regard the language of the 2nd as perfectly clear. Not only the language, but the very placement of the 2nd support the contention that it, like the other elements of the Bill of Rights, protect the individual citizen from the overreaching powers of the federal government. The Bill of Rights was not written to guard collective rights, but individual ones.
I'm no fan of the NRA either. You'll find the prodigious NRA fund-raising machine in cahoots with the state at every turn in imposing "reasonable" anti-gun laws. Having Ashcroft as a poster boy might well increase those donations, but in the long run, the NRA along with Ashcroft will sell out gun-bearing Americans. Even so, the Post's hypocrisy amazes.
"The Supreme Court has not recently -- or clearly -- pronounced on the subject of guns, but its 1939 decision in U.S. v. Miller states that the amendment was adopted "with obvious purpose" of protecting the ability of states to organize militias…"
More nonsense. The stupidity of the SCOTUS in deciding "Miller" is well documented. Miller was a hillbilly moonshiner caught with a hitherto legal sawed-off shotgun by agents of the ATF, recently deprived of a mission by the end of prohibition. A district federal court threw out the case on clear grounds that Miller's 2nd Amendment rights had been violated. On government appeal, Miller was not even represented in the Supreme Court hearing and the court ignored the obvious usefulness of sawed off shotguns as both a personal defense and militia weapon, at the behest of the US Attorney, the only one presenting a case. Organization of a "state" militia was not an issue, just the utility of a particular weapon in any militia.
"Eighteenth-century firearms had far less offensive capability than assault weapons and modern handguns. If the people's right to bear arms includes these weapons, why does it not also include howitzers or, for that matter, helicopter gunships? There must be some type of weapon so dangerous that its proliferation can legitimately be blocked even among law-abiding citizens."
Eighteenth-century firearms indeed had far less offensive capability than assault weapons - and given the doctrine that every American should have at a minimum equal weaponry to that carried by an eighteen year old infantryman, the still existing Civilian Marksman Program should be supplying any interested American citizen with a fully automatic M16 (at cost). And for that matter, would the Post support the right of any American to carry a single-shot .357 pistol? I think not; their comparison of old weaponry to new is just more hypocrisy.
Regarding helicopter gunships, tanks, and other highly advanced weapons, those issues are nothing but a rhetorical smokescreen. Their cost and complexity would preclude civilian proliferation. Many advocates for 2nd Amendment rights feel that a dividing line is drawn when discussing crew-served weapons - personally, I'd like to get to the legal M16 stage, before I deal with my right to a Stinger missile.
"Mr. Ashcroft himself acknowledges, albeit in a footnote to his NRA letter, that Congress can enact laws restricting gun ownership "for compelling state interests." This concession may allow the attorney general to stick to his vow to defend and enforce existing laws. But Mr. Ashcroft's embrace of the individual-rights view of the amendment can serve only to inject uncertainty into an area of law that has long been settled."
This closing note of the Post's editorial cuts to the heart of the matter. You may rest assured that Mr. Ashcroft's "compelling state interests" will in the end rule, and that the Bush Administration like others before it will betray the Constitution.
Then joy will rule at the Post and Kay Graham will rest easy in her grave.