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May 18, 2009

It's About Citizenship

Many of you are aware that CSGV Executive Director Josh Horwitz has a book coming out this month, Guns, Democracy and the Insurrectionist Idea, that “recasts the gun debate” by “demonstrating how reasonable gun control is essential to the survival of democracy and ordered liberty."

Josh is not the only person thinking about this topic in the wake of last year’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision, however. Frequently, I will receive emails from a nonprofit organization, The Potowmack Institute, whose motto is, “It’s not about guns…it’s about citizenship.”

A recent missive from the Institute contained some very provocative ideas:

We are in the midst a crisis in gun violence and gun trafficking that is no longer simply national. It has become international … These crises can no longer be ignored … The [Senate] Judiciary Committee will have confirmation hearings on a Supreme Court nominee. It is not usual to ask nominees questions on cases, but the Parker [v. District of Columbia]/Heller gun rights cases do offer possibilities on the most fundamental concepts…

The vital arguments [have been] ignored … The substantive discussion begins with something very simple: What James Madison was really describing in Federalist Paper No. 46 was not a civil right of private individuals. It ends with something equally simple. The Parker/Heller cases were a devastating defeat for gun rights ideologies [in part because those decisions affirmed that a wide range of gun control regulation is both constitutional and permissible and because they refused to adopt a strict scrutiny standard for future regulations]. If the gun lobby does not accept the opinions of the courts, the constitutional challenge to them is to launch a campaign for a constitutional amendment. The cynical business of defeating legislation does not secure a constitutional right.

The hearings have to be directed toward the formulation of national policy. The only really important goal of national policy is to control the illegal traffic of guns between and among jurisdictions and now, between and among nations. That is empowerment policy for local jurisdictions. The Federal Government need do little more. That goal can only be accomplished by registration of ownership and reporting of private sales...

[The solution] is very simple: Resurrect the original militia concept and practices as manifest in the “Militia Act of 1792.” Registration for militia call-up—regardless that a call-up ever takes place—is a matter of military preparedness. It can have the added benefit of controlling the illegal traffic [in firearms]. We can call it the “Homeland Security Militia Reserve Act.”

The constitutional authority for such a national firearms policy is not the much overused Commerce Clause, but the militia clauses and the Second Amendment. Militia duty was conscript duty. Privately owned weapons were a public resource [used for] public duty. They were placed on inventories and reported to the president of the United States ... Can the Judiciary Committee conduct a badly needed national civics lesson? There are no libertarian individual rights in a conscript military organization. After the Parker/Heller opinions there can be no constitutional objections.

The gun rights ideologues would, I think, be very eager to get a hearing for their rights. The business of serious political leadership is to keep them honest and hold them accountable.

A policy that actually entails some real responsibilities for those who consistently clamor about their “rights”? Sounds like a great idea to me...

May 11, 2009

Wish I Had Said That

One of my favorite sources of inspiration is the excellent magazine, “The Progressive Christian.” The April 2009 edition carried an excellent article by Charles Schuster, the following sections which I would like to share with you:

In the midst of a world economic crisis, it is important to revisit what has, truly, brought us through the fire, the flood, the terror, the famine, and the pestilence of the past. We have survived because we learned that we must care for each other rather than protect ourselves from each other. We have survived because we have learned to cooperate instead of compete. The human spirit has risen to its best when it has pondered the broad horizon and has been able to look past the tree that blocked us to see the forest that surrounded our ponderings ...

For those who want to purchase weapons of miniscule destruction, let us invite them to empty the bullets from their guns and assemble to fight the real enemies of the state that are found in the human heart, and to bear witness to the real cure for what ails us, which also is found in the human heart.

The time has come for religious people to be religious. The word religion is derived from a Latin word meaning “to bind together.” This is a time to bind together even as segments of our population want to separate us from each other.

This is a time for the fittest to lead in our survival, but fitness is not defined by power and might. It is defined by tenderness and compassion.

Amen, brother Schuster. I wish that I had said that myself...