30 January 2013

Guns, Schools, Assault Weapons: Sen. Feinstein's Hocus-Pocus Constitution - Part 8

The “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013" has been introduced in the United States Senate. The chief sponsor is California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a longtime gun-control advocate.

The ban language itself is not really surprising. (We’ll discuss that in Part 9.)

Feinstein (and her cronies) did not stop with the ban. They’ve added a long section about what weapons are allowed, or what Mommy Government will give us permission to do in exercising certain rights.

That is absolutely unprecedented and dead against 225 years of American Constitutional history.

Any American who reads this part of the Act – even someone who supports the concept of a ban – should be insulted and alarmed by the fact that they supposedly are being given permission by Government to exercise rights. That sort of notion comes from an aristocratic, out-of-touch presumption of marble tower dwellers who see the Constitution as Silly Putty for their personal agendas. This concept of giving us “permission” is the most noxious thing to come out of that Great Marble Whorehouse called the Capitol so far in this young millennium.

Wait a minute – I said unprecedented. 

A somewhat similar situation has occurred before on this continent. Then, representatives of the people signed a document which made a declaration of principle:

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.

John Hancock signed that document in really big letters so that King George III could read it without his spectacles.

This nitwit idea of Government telling us what we can do rather than our telling our representatives what they can do is one of the few things I’ve run into lately that actually merits the term “shocking.”

Our concept of American citizenship has been that we are free persons who enter into a voluntary compact with our fellow citizens. Feinstein and her cosponsors are going for the image of citizen as a peasant and ass-kisser to the Masters.

The ban includes lots more weapons than the now-expired 1994 assault weapons ban. It does so by redefining what equals an “assault weapon.”

(By the way, the term “assault weapon” is a modern one – and a political one. It was coined by civilian politicos in one of the gun anti-gun crazes 20 years ago.)

The 2013 Act would ban 157 weapons specified by name. This includes all of the “AR” types (a similar platform is the military’s M-16, although semi-automatic, not automatic) and the “AK” types (ditto reference semi-automatic actions).

(Fully automatic firearms – machine guns – have been banned for eighty years without a peep from the NRA.)

Incidentally, note that this scribe uses “weapon” rather than “gun.”. That is quite intentional. We cannot ignore or minimize the purpose of these tools. They are intended to injure and kill. The present power to injure and kill is often a positive thing. Or, at least, it is a thing much to be desired from time to time on a case-by-case basis. Time and again, we see that the presence of or availability of a weapon discourages those bent on unlawful violence.

It would be nice to have a Utopian society. But bucking Prof. Reality never has been real smart.

The constitutionally alarming part of the 2013 Act starts at Section 3(e), Appendix A, page 22.  See for yourself:

Text of 2013 Assault Weapons Ban

This lists 2258 weapons which are not banned, weapons which are, for the moment, "permitted."

What the hell was on the drafters’ elite little minds?

We doubt that respect for the personal Constitutional right of self-defense was high on that list. Plenty of arms on the “permitted” list have long been in the sights of gun controllers. One such is a weapon I’ve owned examples of over the years, the Ruger Mini 14, a semi automatic, detachable magazine rifle which uses the 5.56 mm cartridge. Does anyone think that Sen. Feinstein really wants me to have one of those?

Two other lines of the drafters’ reasoning are not mutually exclusive.

First is the abracadabra affect: “Guys, we’re only banning a measly 157 weapons by name. Looky, here’s 2258 we’ll let you keep for now.”

Incidentally, the specifics list of specified weapons are not complete. I own five long guns which are specified not on the list of “permitted” weapons, but which do not come close to meeting the new definition of “assault weapon.”

Wait a minute, I forgot one – so make it six.

The other explanation for a “Mommy May I” list is that the drafters are would-be elitist despots who have an Orwellian Animal Farm view of the Constitution.

This idea of a permitted list turns the American concept of “rights” upside down.

Friends, the Bill of Rights does not “give” us ANYTHING.  Not one damn thing.

The Bill of Rights limits Government from taking what people already have – the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Or is the Declaration of Independence out of style, too?

We already have the right to speak our minds, tend to our own affairs, and protect ourselves from attack. The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution so that it would be totally clear that the people were not giving up the rights they already had.

When Government says “here is a list of what’s okay for you to do,” that Government is showing the greatest disrespect. They’re taking us back to Kings, Queens, Dukes and Earls on the one hand and peasants in homespun clothing bowing down on the other.

We can understand that some people are going to think that this is just about guns. So let’s test this concept of disrespect by the “Mommy May I” list method. Let’s look at possible statutes which can be proposed about other rights. The drafters of the 2013 ban say that 2258 listed weapons do not meet the “assault weapon” definition. That appears to be accurate.

So let’s propose some things here which will all be completely accurate, literally true statements of law.

How do you react to them?

We all like the First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

So let’s fiddle with it by statute:

  • “Any person may pray to a deity in his or her home.”
  • “Any person may pray silently in a public place.”
  • “Groups of 20 persons who remain quietly assembling a public parks if they do not violate criminal laws.”
  • “Citizens may submit neatly written petitions to Congress on which are printed the signers names, addresses and phone numbers and which have affixed thereto their right thumb print.”
  • “The press may accurately report the roll call votes of Congress.”

Feel safer yet?

Let’s not restrict this to the First Amendment. How about the Fourth Amendment, which protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures:

  • “A citizen’s personal papers located in a locked safe in his or her home cannot be seized without a search warrant.”

Or the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination:

  • “A citizen may decline politely to confess to a crime when questioned by a police officer when not in a police station.”

Every one of those proposals is absolutely accurate. If Congress can give us a list of what weapons they approve, they can give us a list of all of those other actions.

Now, do you feel better that you have their permission?

Why do we even think in terms of "they" as the Government? Listen, the Government is not "them," the Government is US. It's only because we have let pompous and arrogant power-mongers continue in office that we have this "us-them" thing.

It’s not cool to express that there is ever going to be a possibility of Government tyranny or overcontrol. And yet that’s been a mainstay of political thought in the history of this continent. I’m thinking of all of the revolutionary writers – Henry, Paine, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, even uber-Federalist Hamilton; and of the Jacksonians, and Fenimore Cooper, and Emerson and Thoreau, and on and on.

In the 1980s, I argued a constitutional gun rights case on behalf of the NRA in the West Virginia Supreme Court. At the end of the argument, I suggested that having firearms in civilian hands is one counterbalance against excessive Government power. The oldest Justice on the court was quite offended. I think I understand why he took offense.  That Justice was a true public servant, and his idea of Government would not have thought of telling us what was “permitted.” But his kind of Government seems to be going out of style.

I have many friends in Government. Sometimes I praise them and sometimes I argue with them, even in colorful terms. I hope that none of them thinks that I should be asking them for permission to exercise my rights or for a list of how to do it. 

If they do, they are wrong.

And people who do expect that are reckless. 

At this point in the development of this wonderful place called America, switching gears to a “Mommy May I” society would be an unimaginable tragedy.

Note: I don’t think I ever use the term “law-abiding Americans” these days. I consider that whining. I use “American citizens” or “citizens.” We are law-abiding. We are also ethical, moral and honorable. Those few who break the covenant with their fellow citizens have exiled themselves from our ranks. The myth that decent people are not the vast majority of Americans is libelous bullshit.

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