CommunityPam's House Blend

The Bill of Rights Suggestions

John Avarosis at AMERICAblog wins the “Radical” Russ Nail on the Head award for this week (and it’s only Monday!) He makes an obvious play to appeal to the right-wingers to shock them into understanding just what it is Bush has done by asserting he has the right to disregard the 4th Amendment (in the Domestic Spying for Security Initiative™) just because he’s commander-in-chief during a time of war, by noting that if he can just ignore Amendments I, IV, V, and VIII, he can just as easily ignore the other Amendments written on that “goddamned piece of paper”, too, including the Second.

Real despots, real dictatorships, real tyrannies don’t ask for permission before they take your rights away. When jack-booted thugs want to steal your most basic rights as free citizens, they come in the dark of night, you won’t even know they’ve been there, and by the time you find out what they’ve done, it will be too late.

What exactly am I talking about? Read on.

Your right to bear arms is protected by the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. It is one of ten amendments to the Constitution that we call the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights were adopted in 1791 to protect your basic rights and freedoms as Americans from an overzealous government. Among those rights and liberties, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to bear arms, and the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. What Bush has done to justify his recent domestic spying is to say that the Constitution in general, and the Bill of Rights in particular, are no longer either absolute or the law of the land. Instead, Bush, as commander in chief during war time, can overrule the Bill of Rights with a secret executive order whenever he wants. Not only is this absurd, but it’s an incredibly dangerous precedent for our democracy and everyone living under it.

What Bush has just done is to say that the Constitution no longer dictates what he can and can’t do as president. That means your rights under the Bill of Rights are no longer absolute or guaranteed, they’re no longer the law of the law, they’re now just simple “suggestions” without teeth, that can be brushed away by the federal government whenever it sees fit. If the Bill of Rights no longer give us absolute protection against our government, and can be overruled at a whim by that government, then the protections they afford no longer exist — they no longer exist.

It’s funny how great minds think alike. I used the same exact rhetorical trick in my (rare non-cross-posted at The Blend) post called Medical Marijuana and Gun Rights last Thursday. We cannabis consumers abandoned any hope of exercising our gun rights long ago, when Congress in the 1980s began enacting mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes. Most those minimums have enhanced penalties if the drug criminal is found in possession of a firearm, whether the firearm is legally registered or not, whether the person has the right to possess the firearm (e.g., not a felon, is a citizen, etc.), and whether or not the firearm was ever used, brandished, or even possessed by the person accused of the drug crime. (Though my wife wouldn’t like it, I’d love to have a concealed carry permit for a can-shooting gun*, but not at the risk of more time in a federal pen.)

My post examines yet another nexus of prohibitionist federal policy vs. enlightened state medical marijuana law. A Beaverton man’s concealed carry permit was revoked by the county sheriff. The sheriff explained that federal law prohibits gun licensing to anyone “known to be a habitual abuser of illicit drugs”. That pretty much describes any one of Oregon’s 12,500+ registered medical marijuana patients, so the sheriff asked for the person’s medical marijuana status on the concealed carry license renewal form. Fortunately, the judge threw out the sheriff’s case and reinstated the man’s permit. Unfortunately, it will likely be appealed, and the Raich ruling pretty much settles that federal marijuana policy trumps state marijuana policy… even if there is no federal interest in the case.

(*Can-shooting gun? That’s what my dad used to call powerful handguns. “Son, they’re only good for shooting cans… Ameri-cans, Afri-cans, Puerto Ri-cans, Mexi-cans…”)

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