Tuesday, December 18, 2012
The War on the Bill of Rights
Q: Why does Obama oppose the Second Amendment? A: Because it's the one thing between him and the First Amendment. Hahaha...ha...ha... not funny.
We are about to start reaping the fruits of the 2012 election. They'll be bitter. I think we're about to see a full and overt assault on the Bill of Rights and on those who support individual liberty. I hope I'm entirely wrong. But don't bet on it.
Immediately on the heels of the terrible Sandy Hook School murders, Obama and the left were in high gear. It had long before been announced on pro-gun blogs that Diane Feinstein was meeting with Obama to discuss her new draconian Assault Weapons Ban. With this mass murder, the Obama administration is taking full advantage (never let a crisis go to waste!) and is going to milk this for all they can, assisted by their media wing (NYT, CNN, NBC, ABC, etc.) The MSM and left are now in a frenzy and demanding draconian gun control now. Some left liberals go so far as to call publicly for killing of NRA members. How progressive!
Unforeseen Contingencies' position on this issue has already been made clear; there's nothing new to say, unless perhaps μολὼν λαβέ. The issues are being covered quite well elsewhere. I'll note a few that are perhaps more obscure but worth noting: a blog post from biophysicist and libertarian Mary Ruwart, Ph.D. and an op-ed in the Daily Caller on Australia's experience with AWB. Eugene Volokh and co. have a number of good pieces that are bit different, such as this and this. And as always, Sipsey Street Irregulars is the go-to place for these topics.
The Daily Caller op-ed makes an important point: gunowners and the Second Amendment are not the only target of the left. "The odd thing about gun control is that a culture of censorship often increases after anti-gun laws fail to deliver. ... Only a 'thought control' culture can sustain a “gun control” culture." This is something I've thought for quite a while. Example: given the recent success of the first 3D printed AR-15,* the only way an AWB can work is by also imposing controls over plans, software, 3D printers: information. Hence, if there's to be a successful AWB, the First Amendment must go. If a new "no grandfather" AWB were passed, the Fourth Amendment (search and seizure) and what's left of the Fifth Amendment (no taking of property without due process) would also have to go. I think the left is ready for this.
Democrats have been insistent that Citizens United be reversed, so much so that they are proposing amending the Constitution with a "People's Rights Amendment." It was already introduced in Congress by Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) and has been endorsed by Nancy Pelosi, among others. In fact, there are at least 13 versions of such laws that have been introduced, all by Democrats, save for the one from Socialist Bernie Sanders. McGovern's version is the one "Free Speech for People" thinks best. It appears to be the most draconian (i.e. comprehensive), and has the sponsorship of the Democratic House leadership.
Go ahead and read the proposed amendment. It doesn't take much analysis to see that under this amendment, only individuals would have protected speech; people who join together in organizations would not. For example, the National Rifle Association would lose the right to argue against gun control. Cato Institute would lose the right to argue for limited government. Ironically, "Free Speech for People" would lose the right to post its website and campaign against free speech. The amendment would cut every which way -- under McGovern's variant, no organization would be exempt, even political parties.
Legal scholar Eugene Volokh and others have pointed this out on the Volokh Conspiracy blog; so has George Will in WaPo. What can one say about this? What the amendment proposes at the very least is to gut any practical importance of the First Amendment. While it's doubtful that this particular amendment would be adopted, perhaps one of the less draconian ones that exempts labor unions could get more support; perhaps further exemptions for the "legitimate" MSM, as well as "approved" nonprofits might further increase a base of supporters. (NRA and Cato need not apply.)
But the real point isn't so much that this damnable amendment will be passed, but rather that it reveals the genuinely totalitarian mindset of modern "progressive" left-liberals. As George Will observes, "By proposing his amendment, McGovern helpfully illuminates the lengths to which some liberals want to go. So when next you hear histrionic warnings about tea party or other conservative 'extremism,' try to think of anything on the right comparable to McGovern’s proposed vandalism of the Bill of Rights."
Unfortunately, the problem goes far deeper than this particular amendment madness. I've already documented here and here that some very serious left-liberal legal scholars support the idea of restricting free speech protections, particularly when speech "causes" violence (i.e. people who don't agree with what was said respond violently). (You know, as in "Kill NRA members for supporting the Second Amendment.") And there is longing among some on the left for the days of the FCC's "Fairness doctrine," as a way to "get" right wing talk radio. It isn't even inconceivable that some anti-libertarian social conservatives could be induced to sign on if they think it gives them a chance to suppress the expression they dislike. Add to this the hatred often exhibited by many on the left for those of us who support individual rights rather than "human rights," and it's very ugly.
Is this really a serious threat? Yes, damned right it is! This is a genuine threat that comes from people who have not hesitated to wield power, even when they aren't certain what it entails (think PPACA), so long as it increases their power. And with the attacks on the First and Second Amendments it's no mystery what is entailed. Again, it would be difficult to get a constitutional amendment passed that would end free speech or repeal the Second. But there are other, far more likely ways of getting at the same goal. Obama thinks he has a mandate, the left thinks they have the driver's seat, and they are about to accelerate the war on the Bill of Rights and their political opponents. I don't expect the Bill of Rights to be changed -- passing a new amendment is not easy -- but I do expect all sorts of ruses to try to render it a dead letter.
As dire as the situation is, though, I think it may prove more difficult than they realize. Unforeseen contingencies have a way of interfering with the best laid plans of central planners and men.
*The weapon broke down after firing six rounds. The proper comparison the Wright brothers' first airplane. Success!