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Hullabaloo


Saturday, December 05, 2015

 

Want to fight terrorists? Stop arming them.

by Tom Sullivan

In what is billed as its first front-page editorial in 100 years, the New York Times has had about enough of inaction and false piety from elected leaders who promise that if elected, they will not serve. Neither will they protect.

The Times editorial board writes:

It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.

Opponents of gun control are saying, as they do after every killing, that no law can unfailingly forestall a specific criminal. That is true. They are talking, many with sincerity, about the constitutional challenges to effective gun regulation. Those challenges exist. They point out that determined killers obtained weapons illegally in places like France, England and Norway that have strict gun laws. Yes, they did.

But at least those countries are trying. The United States is not. Worse, politicians abet would-be killers by creating gun markets for them, and voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs. It is past time to stop talking about halting the spread of firearms, and instead to reduce their number drastically — eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition.

Esquire's Charlie Pierce put the insanity bluntly Thursday night on All In with Chris Hayes: "We're fighting a war on drugs, but we can't keep from arming the drug dealers. We're fighting a war on terror, but we can keep guys off airplanes but we can't keep them from buying an assault weapon."

America is awash with guns. So much so that weeks ago police uncovered a cache of thousands, perhaps the largest seizure ever (many of them stolen), purchased by a gun hoarder in South Carolina. At least he kept them off the streets. That the couple behind the San Bernadino killings got their weapons legally and used them illegally is of little comfort to the dead and wounded and their families. They were easily and readily available.

Don't hold your breath, but perhaps this week the spell gun shamans have cast over this country is beginning to weaken. If reports are accurate, the weapons used in the San Bernadino mass murder were legally obtained. And readily available. Political fearmongers expect us to pee ourselves and demand protection whenever they invoke the terrorist bogie man. Yet they remain staunchly impotent to reduce the supply of weapons the way they work to reduce the supply of drugs. Meanwhile, terrorists use the ready availability of weapons in America as a selling point for going out and killing Americans, saying, "So what are you waiting for?"

The Times has had enough of the carnage and the political eunuchs. An imperfect solution is better than not even trying, the Times suggests. But all-or-nothing thinking is characteristic of our facile gundamentalist compatriots. Their answer to a less-than-perfect solution is not even trying.

In his famous dissent in Terminiello v. City of Chicago (1949), Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Jackson disagreed with the majority that overturned the disorderly conduct conviction of a priest whose rantings at a rally had incited a riot. The Court found that the ordinance violated the First Amendment. Too doctrinaire, Jackson thought. He concluded his dissenting opinion:

The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.

The majority held that 1st Amendment rights were inviolable in this instance, as 2nd Amendment advocates argue when it comes to guns of any shape or size. Yet "the Constitution is not a suicide pact" is cited regularly whenever national security is at issue, except when the issue is touching the 2nd Amendment. The pretzel logic of gundamentalists is that their favorite amendment is sacrosanct, and that the 2nd Amendment writes the option for national suicide into the Constitution. That is, that the Founders wrote into the Bill of Rights the right to overthrow the very government the Founders just worked so assiduously to create. And so the carnage must continue, because freedom.

Enough.