Guess Who

In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children. You can call yourself a “pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative.” I will never refer to someone who pickets Planned Parenthood but lobbies against common-sense gun laws as “pro-life.”

“Pro-life” can mean only one thing: “respect for the sanctity of life.”

Who said or wrote that this week?

Answer below. I wouldn’t have guessed.


Far too straight talk to have come from a major political figure. But also surprisingly sensible for Thomas Friedman.

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17 Responses to Guess Who

  1. Vic says:

    Actually, that’s not at all surprising. It sounds just like him.

    The problem with arguments about gun control is that they always miss the big picture: The ENTIRE Constitution is a gun control document. Not gun control as applied against the people, but gun control applied against the Government. The Second Amendment is merely the final guaranty against Government action against its own citizens.

    What people don’t consider is this simple fact: EVERY law, every rule, every regulation, even every general expectation that Government officially expresses, INHERENTLY is backed by deadly force, or at least force applied at the point of a gun. EVERY one. You might think that’s ridiculous, but try not paying even a minor traffic infraction some time. If you continue to not cooperate and pay your fine, and ignore the judge, you WILL be placed in a place where they keep you locked up, and if you try to leave, you will be forced to return at the point of a gun or even shot. All over having a burnt out headlight on your car. If you think I’m kidding, try it some time. Go down to you local Fed Court and try walking in without going through the metal detector. I know you are harmless. You know you are harmless. But keep insisting that you don’t need to do it to the Marshals and you WILL be either forced out of the building at gunpoint, or, more likely, arrested on the spot and not allowed to leave on threat of being shot. The only reason we all aren’t put in jail for every offence is because we generally cooperate as expected by Government. But every infraction will result eventually in Government guns pointed at you if you decide that you don’t feel like cooperating with that plan. Never forget that.

    Our founders understood this basic feature of any viable Government and therefore wrote a Constitution that stands not against the Rights of the people, but against the enforcement abilities of Government. Every Article and Every Amendment is about gun control: Government can go THIS far to enforce its will. The Second Amendment is merely there to ensure (and reassure the States) that the Government can’t interpret its own law, etc. to also mean the restriction of guns held by the People, and thus deployable against Government guns (and other uses). It is the final line of defence, not the be-all end-all of gun control. Understood properly, our Government is founded on the very idea of Gun control for Government, and the necessary freedom of gun ownership for its People.

    If you believe otherwise, then you really only believe in whatever Rights Government, in its largess, grants to you. You do not believe in fundamental Rights, and you certainly can’t therefore believe in any penumbras and emanations from them.

    The fact that some deranged individuals use military-type weapons against other individuals is deplorable and nobody excuses that in any way. (the NRA wants gun criminals locked up at least as much as anybody else.) However, given the purpose of our Constitution, and the possibility it contemplates, these are also EXACTLY the kinds of weapons that should never be controlled out of availability by Government. Law-breakers should be dealt with, but it goes no further than that.

    None of the rest of any of this statement matters one bit if we first give up the ability to control our own Government – by force if necessary. Whether or not there is an EPA is much further down the list of risks to human health than having a Government that can do whatever it wants for whatever reason it wants to give. Just ask anyone who lives in one of the many dictatorships around the planet.

    (It might be good to recall that Planned Parenthood, for all its apparent “good” today was founded out of a movement, and by a believer in the idea, that the less desirable in society, a group that at that time have included you, did not have the Right to reproduce and force the rest of society to live with your offspring. It was meant as an apparently kinder alternative to the forced sterilization programs in the U.S. and Britain that inspired the Nazis and continued in this country up through the 60′s. (programs meant to eliminate the “disadvantaged children” in their entirety – negating even the need for Head Start.) PP used to actually admit all of this on it website. I don’t know if it still does. So whatever one thinks of abortion (and I am pro-choice), thinking that opposition to Planned Parenthood is somehow immoral is…well…immoral itself.)

    • So you read the 2nd Amendment to protect the right to bear which of the following?

      * Semi-automatic weapons
      * Automatic rifles
      * Machine guns
      * Mortars & Rocket-propelled grenades
      * Anti-tank missiles
      * Anti-aircraft surface to air missiles
      * Neutron bombs
      * Briefcase nukes
      * Tactical nukes
      * Strategic nukes
      * ICBMs

      • Vic says:

        I’m not going to engage in one of your silly reductio ad absurdum arguments.

        But I am willing to bet that while you toss the terms about like an expert, you actually could not distinguish an automatic weapon from a semi-auto from an autoloader, nor explain why all three are actually slower firing than a revolver. Not without 20 minutes on wikipedia first anyway. So why should anyone follow YOUR desires and recommendations on the subject?

        • Just me says:

          While I generally agree with much of what Vic said, it misses an obvious truth: the constitution was written during a time when a good musket was enough. Military technology has advanced far beyond what “the people” could reasonably hope to combat with even the best rifles. Just look at Syria. That people’s resistance is faltering badly due to lack of material support (i.e. war weapons) against the power of a modern military. And that is against a second rate military that doesn’t hold a candle to what we would have to deal with in this country under those circumstances.

          If the American people chose, for whatever reason, to rise up against the government, no amount of armed rifleman-citizens could do much if the military remained supportive of the government.

          Oh, and I can answer most of your little trivia questions. I have also had the pretty f***ing bad ass experience of emptying a 100 round drum through a semi-auto AK-47 limited only by my ability to hold the gun steady while squeezing the trigger as fast as I could. I know what it can do, and its not enough against tanks and helicopter gun ships.

          • To Just me:

            Read Sun Tzu, read history, and reevaluate your true but irrelevant arguments.

            You do not have to destroy an enemy, only his will to fight. Terrorists understand this, most Americans do not.

            • Just me says:

              Terrorists are effective against the US because we remain a democracy and the people are easily frightened. Modern terrorists get their power from fear, not persistence. If the potentially despotic government doesn’t fear the loss of power for unpopular acts, it is free to use whatever force it likes – again, see Syria.

          • Vic says:

            Well, obviously, as a practical matter, if the U.S. Government decided to unleash the full fury of its military weaponry on its own citizens, then there is very little that could really be done DIRECTLY against it.

            Though I would note that since the U.S. Government does not even have the stomach to unleash its weaponry and capability against those at which we are at war… Or even to save U.S. citizens in danger…

            But as a more realistic matter, if that were ever to happen (LOL), and the military and the seats of power in our Government went along with the idea, and brought the situation past the point where order could be maintained with common weapons and the actions of common citizens, then we’d be long past having a Constitutional Government anyway. Our system of Government simply doesn’t contemplate, nor is it compatible with, such a scenario. It would be long gone and those serving it would not be our Government.

            So I’m not sure why you’d care.

            • Just me says:

              Then I think you have argued your way out of your own point.

              • I think you miss his point entirely, and your reliance on Syria is misplaced.

                First, unless you are an extremely well informed member of the intelligence community, I don’t see how you are in any better position than the rest of us to judge who is winning or losing that conflict.

                One thing is for sure, the world is on the side of the rebels, so I am not exactly sure why you are so quick to conclude that the “people’s resistance is faltering badly.” Sooner or later someone might step in and provide the support you say they need.

                Compare the recent protests in Iran, which were quickly crushed, in part, because Obama turned his back on it. But query whether if that resistance had been armed, and whether Obama could have so easily ignored it if it had persisted as long as the Syrian “uprising” has. I don’t think so.

              • Vic says:

                No, I’m simply saying there are two degrees of possibility:

                In the first, Government oversteps its bounds a bit, but the People (including many in law enforcement, the Military, and Government, step in and stop whatever is going one – by threat of force or actual force if necessary). Our Constitutional founders considered that.

                The second possibility is that our own Government goes nuclear on its people and there is no way to fight back against whomever holds power.

                In the first case, the Framework of our Constitutional Government is in place and functional. The People will just need to set things right again.

                In the second, the Government has gone beyond all bounds, declared actual war on the People, and there is no real possibility of self-defense.

                My point is that the second scenario is not really important since by that time we will be North Korea anyway. There will be no Government worth defending and those willing to act will have long since been killed or rounded up.

                So I haven’t talked myself out of my point, I simply recognize that there is a point at which the niceties of society and the morality of men are not enough to hold the line.

    • I think you also neglect to mention that Heller recognized an inherent right to own a firearm as a form of self-defense against criminal fellow citizens, not just against a tyrannical government. Heller specifically recognized the right to own a handgun for such purposes.

      As I posted above, in a Colorado-like scenario there is little difference between a semi-automatic pistol versus a semi-automatic rifle. In fact, you can go on Amazon or Ebay today and buy a shoulder stock to attach to the ubiquitous Glock pistol, and viola, you have what the ATF considers to be a short-barreled rifle. Anyone with basic woodworking skills can make such shoulder stocks from scratch. (I should not that it is illegal to simultaneously possess the shoulder stock and the Glock without first registering with the ATF and paying the $200 tax.)

      So at the end of the day, if you allow semi-automatic pistols, outlawing semi-automatic rifles has no significant effect on mass murders, because even assuming there is an ergonomic advantage to a pistol versus a rifle, it is easily overcome by a criminal intent on mass murder.

      • Vic says:

        Not sure if you are answering MY post or not…

        If you are:
        For the record, I don’t concern myself here with the ability differences between different weapons. I was merely making the point that those who couldn’t tell the difference between auto-firing and auto-loading probably should have exactly zero input on any gun law which is based upon differences. Remember Feinstein trying to explain what an “assault rifle” is?

        Regarding my neglect, I wasn’t really concerning myself about all possible uses of a gun, only as the Right exists.

        Heller, while I agree with the case, has the inherent problem that all such cases on fundamental rights have: They tend to presume to describe a right more than they tend to limit Government. IMO, an ideal SCOTUS decision on a fundamental right should simply draw a line in the sand and say Government can go no further.

        All the further hand-wringing on the matter tends to give power to the idea that fundamental rights are given, or even allowed, by Government. They aren’t. The exist fully, independently of Government. To form an ordered society, we simply agree to cede a minimal portion of our Rights to Government limitation. The important distinction is that when Government exceeded its Constitutional ability and is reigned in, it doesn’t mean we are GIVEN any Right, SCOTUS is simply recognizing that we still retain the part the Government tried to take from us without permission.

        I don’t NEED the Supreme Court to recognize anything regarding my Rights, I only NEED them to keep Government off of them when it oversteps. In that sense, Heller only needs to state a line for Government, anything else is dicta.

        I’m sure Michael has long since taken his ball and gone home on this thread though…

      • Vic says:

        Sorry – forgot a part:

        The other problem with Heller and the similar recent case, is that they presume that guns Rights are formed upon interpretations of the Second Amendment – they are not.

        That any Fundamental Right somehow flows from the Bill of Rights is a legal fiction that has cause nothing but confusion.

        Fundamental Rights flow from being human (“from God” as the founders termed it), not from the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights, like the REST of the Constitution, only enumerates the limits placed upon Government in its incursions upon those Rights.

        As I explained in my first post, The Constitution in its ENTIRETY concerns gun Rights – more particularly, where we as the People have ceded a small portion of our Fundamental Right of self defence to Government. IMO, Heller should have clarified this point, NOT once again laid down the idea that some Constitutional Amendment decided whether or not I could own a gun.

        • Whatever you may personally believe, the fact is that the Supreme Court does not accept your view of how rights work (10th amendment notwithstanding), and I think it never will. So as a practical legal matter, your claim that rights pre-exist the Constitution (inherent, not necessarily divine) and also exceed the rights enumerated, while perfectly logical is not legally relevant. You can call this a “legal fiction” if you like. I call it a “legal fact”.

          On the other hand, I do agree that arguments from the structure of the Constitution are sound. I don’t however, think that a sound structural analysis of the Constitution leads to the view that the entire purpose of the Constitution is gun rights.

          • Vic says:

            On you second point, think of it this way:

            Government cannot soundly function without an enforcement mechanism. Whatever else you might think of Government, you have to believe that.

            Such an enforcement mechanism must also be (at least in theory and threat) applied absolutely. It would not be a useful enforcement mechanism if YOU, rather than Government, had the last word on whether you’d pay your fine or not. It also would not be a useful enforcement mechanism if it was openly applied discriminatingly.

            So, in the end, anything Government wants you to do, it must also have the ultimate power to FORCE you to do. Anything else would not be Government, it would be cooperation.

            Government has ONE method to enforce everything: Taking things from you. Whether it’s money (fine, license fees, confiscation of ill-gotten gains, etc.) or liberty (put you in jail, house arrest, bar you from entry, etc.).

            So what if you refuse to cooperate? If this was Kindergarten, then maybe you’d be termed a meanie and the other kids wouldn’t play with you.

            But that doesn’t happen when you refuse to cooperate with Government. When you do THAT, they take something from you. And it does so with the full force of Government power: Guns. You can’t refuse to pay a fine, you can’t refuse to go to jail. You can certainly go on the lam, but that’s not really winning… Eventually, even if it’s just a traffic ticket, you WILL find yourself looking at a bench warrant, enforced at the point of a Police officer’s gun, if you refuse to do what Government wants you to do. This is INHERENT in how the system is able to function and the only way it CAN.

            Obviously, the vast majority of us fully cooperate with Government and will never see a Police officer with weapon drawn upon us. That fact lulls us into thinking of Government as a benevolent force for only good. But that is only because we voluntarily remain on the right side of it. Again, try a simple act of civil disobedience in trying to enter a Federal Courthouse without allowing the Marshal’s to search you. Explain to them that you are a law professor, unarmed, and no threat. Insist on passing into the building. You WILL have guns drawn on you. Over something we can all think of as nothing, in the great scheme of things. But when Government demands you do it, you MUST do it, or else at least forego the opportunity to do it. Go exercise your harmless free speech right by standing next to the door at a polling place with an Obama sign. You WILL be arrested if you don’t move away when told.

            In that sense, the Framers (who know ONLY monarchies and despotic governments) fully intended to and did (see the Declaration of Independence) create, for the first time in history, a Government that was subservient to the inherent Rights of the People. This is so clear in the Declaration and the writings of the time, that it is almost awe-inspiring that so many deny it today. (And as you know, the Declaration is enshrined in the U.S. Code today, so it’s ideas, though not statutory, are not just some far out idea of some other Government)

            With that understanding, the Constitution is NECESSARILY a document which acts as a limitation of Governmental power – power which is itself necessarily enforced at the point of a gun. In that (somewhat figurative, but still true) sense, the Constitution as a whole (and the statutes, regs, rules, etc. that flow from its permission), is a Document that states where the Government CAN enforce its desires at gunpoint, and where it can not.

            It can be nothing else. As Lawyers, we might like to focus on its text, but it is, in effect, really a basic structure of Government gun control: Government may use its guns to do this, but not that. It may use its guns to ensure this, if necessary, but not that.

            If you really doubt this, then again, I encourage you to try some minor violation of Government demand and see how far you get before guns are drawn under color of law.

            The Second Amendment, seen in that light, is just a final assurance that Government cannot make itself the de facto absolute power by being the only armed one in the room. But it’s the Constitution as a whole that serves as a document controlling when and where Government can take away our own Right of the Defence of our own liberties and property.

          • Vic says:

            Oh…and on your second point, how I “personally believe” is the entire basis for the notion of fundamental rights and substantive due process, which can only refer (based on the appropriate dicta) to rights pre-extant to the Constitution. There are numerous SCOTUS cases which talk about this and other ideas of what is sometimes called natural law. If the concept of penumbras and emanations is not entirely made up, then it can only come from the idea that “liberty” means something beyond anything granted in the Constitution. SCOTUS does believe in this idea.

            If you think I’m wrong, than consider the Civil Rights cases. Do you think that African Americans suddenly became fully human because of a SCOTUS interpretation of the 13th Amendment (etc.), or do you think the law merely caught up with fact. It’s no different than that.

            My only real problem with SCOTUS is that they refuse (because that is not their mandate – cases and controversies) to simply state how Rights work, but rather dole them out piecemeal, so that it takes 40 cases to understand what Free Speech is, and even then…

  2. “common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle … recently in a Colorado theater.”

    Friedman’s “common-sense” is ignorance on many levels:

    1. Law of unintended consequences. The Colorado mass-murderer had a proven bomb-making abilities. For some unknown reason, he chose to attack the theater with a far less efficient weapon, a firearm. Had he simply planted a homemade bomb, he could have killed everyone in the theater at far less risk to himself. Bombs can be made quite easily, more so then ever now that instructions are now easily accessible over the Internet. Until the fundamental problem of psychopathic mass murderers is solved, are we not better off when glory-seeking murderers use firearms instead of bombs? We certainly were in the Colorado case where he had a proven ability to use either, but chose the less effective mean, namely a firearm.

    2. Mechanical ignorance. Friedman strikes as the type who has never shot, much less owned or studied firearms or ballistics. In the close range quarters of a crowded theater, does it really matter whether the shooter was using a semi-automatic rifle or a semi-automatic pistol? Either will fire a shot as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger. Friedman’s real attack is on semi-automatic firearms generally. However, there are millions of semi-automatic firearms in the hands of law abiding Americans, none of which have ever been used to harm anyone.

    3. Ignorance of prevalence of defensive gun use when weighing utility. Lawful use of firearms in self-defense rarely if ever receives significant reporting, despite studies suggesting their occurring with incredible frequency. Cars kill more people than guns every year, and we let drunk drivers, even those with multiple convictions, and bad drivers who have caused accidents, get back behind the wheel. Why? Because although cars are dangerous, we recognize their utility, and after weighing the two, decide we need easy access to cars, even for convicted drunk drivers and other dangerous drivers. The same goes for swimming pools and electricity. The problem with the Friedmans of the world is that they are (willfully?) ignorant of the positive social utility of firearms, essentially putting a heavy thumb on the scale.

    So to one educated (and not willfully innumerate like Friedman) on firearms issues, Friedman’s statement amounts to “you can’t call yourself pro-life and pro-car or pro-swimming pool (or anything else that might cause death if misused).” Which is nonsense, not commonsense.

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