Monday, November 07, 2005

My View on Samuel Alito

I don’t do much political blogging. Bill (Yosemite Sam) does that task around here—when he posts, which isn’t often enough. Friday, he lamented that bloggers won’t be considered “journalists” for McCain-Feingold and thus subject to very unconstitutional rules infringing on our right to free speech. We won’t let our rights be curtailed.

In that post, frequent commenter, Seth from Massachusetts, asked how we felt about Samuel Alito’s nomination to the US Supreme Court and I decided to answer. First, I’m glad that Harriet Miers got the boot. Being good friends with the president is not suitable qualifications for a Supreme Court justice.

Alito seems very well qualified, so that’s gratifying. My chief concern is Second Amendment rights—at least in my blogging life. Even outside of Ten Ring, gun rights are a huge issue for me. I’m not sure about Alito’s views on the Second Amendment. He dissented in US v Rybar stating that Federal law couldn’t prevent someone from owning a machine gun if that weapon was not involved in interstate commerce.

For that decision, the Brady bunch disparaged him as “Machine Gun Sammy,” but its not a pro-gun decision anymore than Clarence’s Thomas’s dissent in the Raich Medical Marijuana case was a pro-drug decision (the court ruled that Federal drug laws still pertained in a state that legalized medical marijuana even if the pot was never involved in interstate commerce).

Alito’s argument was for a limited application of the Commerce Clause and I like that. This clause has been used to support big government and it’s time its put to pasture or at least curtailed. But, I’m not convinced that Alito is pro-gun any more than John Ashcroft was pro-gun. You see, Ashcroft stated that there was an individual right to own guns, but subject to “reasonable restrictions.”

That’s a conservative anti-gun philosophy that bothers me. We know the liberal anti-gun version all too well (“Guns are bad, they kill, they must be banned, and then we can achieve Kumbaya”). The conservative anti-gun philosophy can be more insidious than outright bans. Basically, you can use a reasonable test to infringe on almost all gun rights if the test stops short of an outright ban.

For instance, a politician may say that it’s reasonable to restrict handguns since they are used in crime. But, that politician could recognize a so-called sporting purpose for handguns in target shooting. That could lead to a right to own a handgun suitable for target shooting only—and the politician and his cohorts could decide what that gun might look like. I could imagine a twelve-inch barrel, a bulky wood grip, and other items that would make it hard to carry concealed.

Similarly, another politician could argue that it’s reasonable to curtail “assault weapons.” Whoops, that’s already been done and we saw how that turned out.

Given that I don’t know Alito’s philosophy on gun ownership, I’m still concerned he could be one of those “Law and Order” conservatives who think “Project Exile” is wonderful even though logically it could be used against any gun owner. I wonder if he would argue for “reasonable restrictions.”

Lest you think I’m overly thinking this point, remember that the founder of Handgun Control, Pete Shields, was a California Republican. Sarah and James Brady took over and renamed the organization. James Brady was Ronald Reagan’s press secretary and presumably Sarah shared her husband’s philosophy.

I’m glad that Alito is not the nominee a President John Kerry (shudder) would have picked, but he will bear watching.

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