Gun-control Radicals Target Ashcroft

Posted: Jul 17, 2001 12:00 AM
Liberals are fond of painting conservatives as extremists, which is interesting, given their own propensity to extremism. Last time, I cited the occasional hysteria of certain pro-choicers. Now, let's look at gun control extremists. Sarah Brady, chairman of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, is upset with Attorney General John Ashcroft over a letter he wrote to the National Rifle Association in May. In response to an inquiry from James Baker, the NRA's main lobbyist, Ashcroft expressed his view that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to keep and bear firearms. This was utter heresy to Brady et al., who maintain that the amendment only protects the rights of state militias (the collective rights view), not individuals. The amendment reads, "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Gun-control advocates insist that the first clause, referring to "militia," is dominant. Others, including Ashcroft, argue that the amendment's original intent and plain meaning was to confer gun rights on individuals. They point out that the second clause is not subordinate to the preceding militia clause. This is not just an esoteric question solely for the entertainment of constitutional scholars. Its resolution has serious and potentially far-reaching legal implications. Many gun-related laws and regulations may hang in the balance. That's why Sarah Brady and her organization are so upset. So upset, that they filed an ethics complaint against Attorney General Ashcroft. The complaint alleges that Ashcroft's letter is in conflict with the government's position in the Emerson case, which is pending before the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans. In Emerson, U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings of Lubbock, Texas, dismissed federal charges against a physician for being in possession of a firearm while under a restraining order in a domestic case, holding that the Second Amendment applies to individuals. Other leftists are also piling on Ashcroft. Remember Sam Dash of Watergate fame? For a while he fronted as Ken Starr's ethics adviser, until he indignantly resigned because Starr decided to testify before Congress to explain his impeachment referral. Dash wrote of Ashcroft's letter, "This act of disloyalty to his client, the United States, constitutes an impermissible conflict of interest." Oh? Perhaps Mr. Dash could explain where he was when Attorney General Janet Reno was filing legal briefs against and otherwise obstructing Independent Counsel Ken Starr, who Dash was purporting to serve. Surely this Georgetown law professor/ethics guru knew that the independent counsel stood in the shoes of the attorney general as to those matters under his investigative jurisdiction. Why, then, didn't he condemn Reno for her flagrant conflict of interest in formally opposing Ken Starr? Why didn't Dash decry Reno's "act of disloyalty to her client, the United States"? The answer is that Dash's selective indignation then (and now) was symptomatic not of his acute ethics sensitivities, but his leftist political views. He had his ideological blinders on. Just more leftist extremism ... speaking of which, let's examine more of Sarah Brady's complaint. "[Mr. Ashcroft's position] will do absolutely nothing to make our streets safer." In other words, the constitutional right of individuals to keep and bear firearms (Ashcroft's position) will not make our streets safer. Obviously, Mrs. Brady and other gun control activists are ignoring the fact that some 2.5 million times each year, law-abiding individuals use guns defensively to protect themselves and their property from assault. Individual gun ownership does make our streets (and homes) safer. Mrs. Brady continued, "[Mr. Ashcroft's position] will only hinder our effort to enact and enforce reasonable gun laws against the fierce attack of the NRA." Do you detect the extreme liberal mindset here? If Ashcroft's view of the Second Amendment prevails, some laws may be invalidated. Heaven forbid! Instead, let's ignore the plain meaning of the amendment and what the framers intended, and do what's expedient. The end justifies the means, and if some nettlesome clause of the Constitution gets in the way, just read it out of existence. Those of you on the Pollyannaish side better wake up. The gun-control extremists see no redeeming value in individual gun ownership, but rather positive harm. They therefore refuse to recognize a constitutional right guaranteeing it. I think it's reasonable to infer that they will not be satisfied until the citizenry is disarmed. They say we should be afraid of weapons. Perhaps we should be afraid of them.