Bush v. the 2nd Amendment

Lately, Democratic presidential contender John Kerry has been making laughable attempts to appeal to gun owners, despite his very clear record in favor of gun control. This would probably be funnier if it weren’t for the fact that Bush, too, has a very clear record of undermining the Second Amendment. Most supporters of gun rights seem to be oblivious to this, or at best only dimly aware. Pointing out the failure by Bush to protect the right to bear arms nearly always brings out the question “So you think Kerry would be better?” Obviously only those who agree with Sarah Brady think Kerry would be better on guns, but it would take some considerable effort for Kerry to do worse, as Bush has attacked gun rights in his domestic agenda, by Administration actions in the courts, and in his foreign policy.

Taking the last first, in Iraq there is a total gun ban in place. The interim constitution provided to Iraq by the Bush Administration contained declarations of “rights” to security, education, health care, and social security for the “liberated” nation, but no right to bear arms. In contrast, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq allowed all sorts of firearms to be bought and sold openly without restriction. To be sure, Hussein was an awful, evil man, a tyrant and a thug. But Hussein was better on gun rights than George W. Bush.

Of course, Bush supporters may argue that, well, there’s a war going on in Iraq, and things are different in a war zone. There’s always a justification to take away rights, isn’t there? War and terrorism were certainly used to justify blatant attacks on the Bill of Rights such as the PATRIOT Act. Arguments about the need for homeland security were made to facilitate the transfer the anti-Second Amendment Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms from the Treasury Department over to Justice, with a big budget increase to enforce more gun control. When it came to arming airline pilots, though, concerns about keeping ourselves safe from terrorism meant little to the Bush Administration, which did nothing but obstruct and stonewall.

Even in other areas not directly connected to combating terrorism, the anti-gun bias of the Bush Administration shows through. Bush supports continuation of the so-called “assault weapons” ban enacted ten years ago under Bill Clinton. His Attorney General, John Ashcroft, boasts of increasing resources to enforce gun control. And when gun owners submitted a Petition for the Enforcement of the Second Amendment, the Bush Administration attempted to intimidate them by only responding through the head of the Terrorism and Violent Crime Section of the Justice Department.

The worst of the Bush record, though, is in the courts. Bush appointee Judge Reggie B. Walton, of the D.C. District Court, tells us that the Second Amendment is not an individual right in Seegars v. Ashcroft. The Bush Administration opposed Supreme Court review of U.S. v. Emerson, with Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Majeta claiming in open court that there is no individual Constitutional right to own firearms, the result of the Bush Administration’s actions being that Dr. Tim Emerson was convicted of merely possessing a firearm while under a customary restraining order issued during his divorce. And Bush’s Solicitor General, Ted Olson, aggressively prosecuted the case of U.S. v. Thomas Lamar Bean, permanently stripping Bean of his Second Amendment rights, merely for accidentally carrying a box of .22 shells across the Mexican border.

Despite what Republicans may say, George W. Bush has shown that rather than being a protector of the Second Amendment, he is yet another statist enemy of the right to bear arms. Maybe conscientious gun owners can’t vote for Kerry because of what Kerry might do as President, but it is definitely the case that gun owners can’t vote for Bush, because of the damage that Bush has already done as President.

September 11, 2004