Courts in headlong slide down the slippery slope of stealing individual rights
By JIM MATTHEWS
Apparently, using the reasoning provided by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals this past week, it would be just a small, simple step to disarm and incarcerate a legal gun owner because it “may increase the public’s sense of safety.”
The three-judge panel decided on Monday that the Highland Park (Chicago-area suburb) ban on certain semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines was legal because it made everyone in the city feel warm and fuzzy.
Well, it the decision didn’t use those exact words, but it may as well have.
The first 12 pages of the 29-page opinion affirming the law featured incredibly tortured logic and sets dangerous precedent. The rest of the opinion was written by the one dissenting judge, pointing out both the logical and legal flaws in the decision.
From the majority opinion, written by Judge Frank Easterbrook and consented by Judge Ann Williams: "[If the law] has no other effect, Highland Park's ordinance may increase the public's sense of safety…. If a ban on semiautomatic guns and large-capacity magazines reduces the perceived risk from a mass shooting, and makes the public feel safer as a result, that's a substantial benefit."
Does anyone else see this as just another headlong tumble down the slippery slope this kind of reasoning opens up?
If a law makes you feel better, then it is Constitutional?
Just where to we draw the line here?
Dissenting judge Daniel Manion seemed baffled and frustrated when he wrote in the dissent, “the court justifies the ordinance as valid because it ‘may increase the public's sense of safety.’ Perhaps so, but there is no evidentiary basis for this finding. The court is not empowered to uphold a regulation as constitutional based solely on its ability to divine public sentiment about the matter.”
Yet, that is exactly what the courts and legislatures increasingly do today: They enforce their viewpoint, ethics, or moral standards on others, usually based on their “feelings” about something. It is rarely about facts or the importance of individual rights any longer.
If all of my neighbors feel unsafe because I own guns for hunting, self-protection, and recreational shooting; if they worked with a city council or county supervisors to pass a law that would jail me because of their “perceived risk;” if some of them also owned guns but weren’t included in the law because they weren’t perceived as a risk; then would the court uphold the law that clearly discriminates against just me because it made the local community feel safer?
The Highland Park decision sets the groundwork for this to happen. Politicians there banned some types of semi-automatic rifles and larger capacity magazines. It didn’t ban all semi-automatics. It didn’t ban any semi-automatic handguns (which are proven to be used in crimes far more often and semi-automatic rifles). It didn’t add greater penalties for using any semi-automatic firearm in a crime (which may have a positive deterrent affect). It just banned some things that made everyone (who didn’t own these guns) feel good. Incredibly, the court said that was OK.
For people who know nothing about firearms, this somehow makes sense. They are afraid of guns, so anything done to rid the world of firearms is a good thing in their minds. They ignore the scientific fact that firearms are used more times to avert crimes than to commit them – and that is by a vast margin. They don’t want to be confused with facts.
Cars and alcohol kill and injure thousands of times more people than semi-automatic rifles each year (heck, more people are bludgeoned to death than killed with rifles) . Pools are deadly on children. But the same people who hate guns don’t blame cars, booze, or pools for those deaths and injuries; they blame the drivers, drinkers, and negligent pool owners. They don’t clamor to ban cars, alcoholic beverages, or backyard pools. Yet, they can’t see guns in the same light because they all drive, drink, and swim – but they don’t shoot. They are more than willing to tread on a gun owner’s Constitutionally-protected right to own firearms.
The Seventh Appellate court said this week that that if local, state, or national laws, increase the community’s sense of public safety, it is OK to peel a layer of your rights away. The courts in Chicago said discrimination is legal.
How far away can we be from rounding up all Christians because they don’t believe in gay marriage or because their neighbors believe the church-goers are radical extremists? Extremists scare people and they probably should be separated from normal people. Maybe they should be rounded up and sent to camps where they can be controlled. Like guns.
Even the two justices who ruled for the ban realized that semi-automatic weapons like those banned are effective for self-defense because they are light and accurate, often more effective than alternatives not banned. But, as the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) pointed out “they quickly threw their own logic aside to reassert the city's interest in reducing perceived risk over the tangible benefits that that modern firearms provide to their owners.”
It’s the old “never mind the facts, my mind is made up” mantra.
Dissenting judge Manion argued that the ruling opinion is "at odds with the central holdings [in settled law]…: that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home."
He went on to write that only individuals "make the ultimate decision for what constitutes the most effective means of defending one's home, family, and property. Ultimately, it is up to the lawful gun owner and not the government to decide these matters," he wrote.
Manion seemed to be the only judge on the panel who understands that individual rights, individual choice are central to the Constitution. But, today, most of the nation’s population doesn’t get it either. At least not until it’s their rights that are violated.