Harsanyi: On guns, an abuse of power
When Barack Obama implored Americans to “do the right thing” on gun restriction during a news conference this week, the “right thing” should have been obvious to everyone. Absolute moral authority — it’s the only way to go.
If you fail to see the picture as clearly as the president, you may be an extremist or, more than likely, you’re too feeble-minded to withstand the Jedi mind tricks employed by gun merchants or radio talk show hosts or the National Rifle Association or all those folks “ginning up fear” on the issue, according to a president who trots out 7-year-olds to shield him from debate.
Now, the 23 executive orders Barack Obama signed that are aimed at “reducing gun violence” could be considered, at worst, cynically political or, at best, completely useless. But the way Obama treats the process, children, the debate, the Constitution and the American people is another story. Sen. Rand Paul recently remarked that “someone who wants to bypass the Constitution, bypass Congress — that’s someone who wants to act like a king or a monarch.” That may be a bit hyperbolic, but it is also a bit true.
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“There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in America,” lectured Obama, “who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting or sport or protection or collection.” (Or — as it must have slipped the president’s mind — the right to put a gun in a case labeled “open in case of tyranny.”) The president went on to profess that he believes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. If this were true for Obama, who was once a constitutional law lecturer at the University of Chicago, why would he attempt to restrict a right that is explicitly laid out in the Bill of Rights (even if it were eminently sensible) without putting it through the republican wringer — the deliberation, the checks and balances, all of it?
The president, who has often said he will work around Congress, also justifies his executive bender by telling us that Americans are clamoring for more limits on gun ownership. So what? These rights — in what Piers Morgan might call that “little book” — were written down to protect the citizenry from not only executive overreach but also vagaries of public opinion. Didn’t Alexander Hamilton and James Madison warn us against the dangerous “passions” of the mob? It is amazing how many times this president uses majoritarian arguments to rationalize executive overreach.
And really, speaking of ginning up fear: “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try,” the president said, deploying perhaps the biggest platitude in the history of nannyism. Not a single one of the items Obama intends to implement — legislative or executive — would have stopped Adam Lanza’s killing spree or, most likely, any of the others. Using fear and a tragedy to further ideological goals was by no means invented by Obama, but few people have used it with such skill.
Now, when the Supreme Court solidified the right to an abortion via Roe v. Wade (now a constitutional right, unlike owning a gun in Chicago) and solidified the individual mandate found in Obamacare (now a constitutional right, unlike, say, the right of Catholics to be free of economic coercion), they became immovable legal precedents that may never be toyed with — ever. Well, even if you believe in banning “assault” weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, doesn’t the Bill of Rights deserve at least that much deference?
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