In The Federalist #10, James Madison discussed the concept of the tyranny of the majority. He addressed the concern that a political, ideological or religious faction might take control of the federal government and oppress people outside the faction. Factions are inevitable in a free society, he said, but in such a large country he thought it unlikely that any one faction could come to dominate the entire nation.
We should consider whether communication technology is has rendered Madison’s argument obsolete. In the 18th century, communication could take days or weeks to go from one part of the country to another, making mass organizing difficult by any but the most tenacious leaders of the most compelling causes. Today, any idiot can push a button and reach multitudes. Combine that with the pernicious influence of campaign and lobbying money, and a well-organized faction can pretty much run roughshod over everybody else.
Not content with merely supporting an individual right to own firearms, the National Rifle Association is hellbent on eliminating all restrictions on any citizens carrying guns anywhere he or she wants, including churches, workplaces, and now bars and restaurants. This is in spite of the fact that even in the most 2nd-amendment lovin’ red states a large majority of people think it’s a real bad idea for a bunch of drunken yahoos to be packing heat.
Yes, the new Tennessee law that lifts all restrictions on where a citizen can carry a concealed weapon, including into bars, provides that the carrier must abstain from drinking. Like that’s even enforceable.
A bar owner can, supposedly, keep guns out of his bar if he posts a clear, legible sign that says guns are not permitted. People opposed to the law argue that this places too much law-enforcement responsibility onto the bar owner.
As much of Tennessee reeled from the record-breaking flood, state lawmakers remained dry atop Capitol Hill last week and dealt with dispatch with the most pressing issue of the day. Yes, as the folks back home were losing their homes and livelihoods to the disaster, legislators passed yet another law to let our 270,000 state-licensed gunmen take their firearms into places that serve alcohol.
This time, they dropped the pretense that they were acting on the demands of their constituents. An MTSU poll, in fact, showed last year that 80 percent of Tennesseans are against mixing guns with booze. Law officers are against it too, and so are restaurants, hotels and essentially the state’s entire tourist industry.
No, this time lawmakers made it clear they were kowtowing to the almighty National Rifle Association—and proud of it!
One state Republican legislator named Joe McCord, who is not running for re-election, had the guts to speak the truth:
“Essentially — I’m not quoting; these are my words — the NRA is saying to us, ‘If you don’t support and vote for carrying guns in bars, we will not endorse you and will in fact oppose you,’ ” McCord said. “I’ve got a strong history of supporting and advocating for the NRA, but this line of reasoning is just bordering on lunacy.
“Your preacher, your teacher, your spouse, your parents—nobody’s 100 percent right. The NRA is not right here, and we’re not standing up to them. … It makes me wonder, what line will we not cross for the NRA? I’m just curious. At what point do we say this is too much?”
From an editorial in The Tennessean:
The Tennessee General Assembly has voted against the wishes of a majority of the people of this state for the second year in a row with its bill to allow guns in bars and restaurants.
Why would legislators do this? Why would they put the safety of citizens and the state’s hospitality industry at risk? At first, it seemed to be all about the swagger — conservative legislators and their buddies fulfilling their Old West (or maybe, their modern Mel Gibson) fantasies.
That’s frightening enough. But Wednesday night, it became apparent that legislators pursued this terrible law in the service of a different constituency: the National Rifle Association.
According to the Paris (TN) Post-Intelligencer, just before the vote was taken the House Republican Caucus invited an NRA lobbyist to address the group. “That’s a privilege usually granted only to legislative liaisons who work for government agencies,” the P-I said. “The lobbyist’s message was clear: Vote the NRA way or the organization will campaign against you in upcoming elections.”
The NRA’s argument is that while the militia may be “well-regulated,” any restriction on an individual citizen’s ability to carry a firearm amounts to an “abridgment” of the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. This assumes that all such rights are absolute and untouchable by law under all circumstances, but we certainly have never treated any other right that way. Freedom of speech doesn’t include a right to publish and distribute hard-core pornography, for example. Freedom of religion doesn’t rubber stamp human sacrifice.
The NRA is using bullying tactics to impose its will on lawmakers, even when a whopping majority of constituents (and probably the lawmakers’ consciences, if they have any) disagree with the NRA’s position. There are some cities and states in which a big majority would prefer some level of legal gun control, for safety’s sake.
Now the wingnuts are screaming that Elena Kagan is opposed to gun rights because —
Elena Kagan said as a U.S. Supreme Court law clerk in 1987 that she was “not sympathetic” toward a man who contended that his constitutional rights were violated when he was convicted for carrying an unlicensed pistol.
Note the “unlicensed” part. More recently she has said,
“There is no question, after Heller, that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to keep and bear arms and that this right, like others in the Constitution, provides strong although not unlimited protection against governmental regulation,” she said.
But that’s not good enough for the gun nuts, who predictably compared
Heller Kagan to Third Reich Nazis.
The crazy part of this is that the basic position of the gun lobby — that the 2nd amendment protects an individual right to own firearms — is settled law at this point. And the issue of gun control isn’t even on the progressivist back burner any more, compared to, say, 15 years ago. It’s not even in the bleeping kitchen.
About the only way gun rights are going to be seriously challenged in the foreseeable future is if there is a huge swing of public opinion in the direction of more gun control. A few shoot-outs in Tennessee roadhouses might do it.