Our View: Raw emotion

Posted: January 17, 2013

President Obama’s Gun-Control Announcement Special — such a made-for-TV event was it that even the most hardened Second Amendment advocate might have fallen prey to the raw emotionalism of this crisis-mongering moment.

But then, that was Mr. Obama’s manipulative intent — to replace reason with emotion. Why else have all those kids at his side? Why ground his appeal in the obvious (to him) common-sensibility of proposals that would easily pass for draconian if advanced by most any other politician?

Remember, though, that this is a White House so convinced of its moral and intellectual superiority that any end justifies most any means. It no longer bothers to convince or persuade by way of right reason or sound judgment. What suffices these days, at least in this gun-violence discussion, is a “We want this” bolstered by a “For the children” seal of approval and the rather banal “If it saves one life . . .” imprimatur, a standard that logically suggests 1,000 deaths might be acceptable if that number could easily have been 1,001.

The long and the short of it is that we’ve steeled ourselves against such manipulation. It’s not that our hearts do not ache for the folks who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence (not only in Newtown, Conn., but also, say, in Aurora, Colo. and, most tellingly, in Mr. Obama’s hometown of Chicago); it’s just that we feel the president’s sweeping prescriptions will prove long on restriction (of the wrong people) and short on results where it counts.

As Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., a former sheriff, told CBS News this week, “The assault weapons ban, the magazine limitations, do not solve the problem of gun crime.”

That’s the real rub: They seldom do — not in Chicago, or Washington, D.C., or Baltimore, where former Mayor (and now Maryland Gov.) Martin O’Malley rammed through restrictive gun-control laws only to see his city maintain its reputation as one of the nation’s most violent municipalities. It strikes us middling odd that Mr. O’Malley, in the wake of Newtown, managed to sell the Maryland legislature on a stringent statewide version of such a failed initiative.

All such empirical evidence calling into severe question the efficacy of gun-control laws notwithstanding, it behooves Congress (and us) to recall the words of Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson relative to the Bill of Rights. In the 1943 case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, Justice Jackson wrote:

“The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”