Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A tale of three initiatives

Opponents of the right to use weapons in self-defense, thus giving the advantage to attackers who are stronger, bigger or are prepared to break the law (most of them), are not happy today. A public initiative was recently passed by the voters of the city and country of San Francisco to ban the buying, selling, distribution or manufacture of guns within the city/county limits. Now a California judge, James Warren, has said the initiative, passed by 58% of the voters, is illegal because state law allows such weapons.

Let us go back a few years to two other initiatives passed by the voters. One was Prop O which was an advisory initiative callling on the state to legalize the sale, possession, distribution or production of hyperdermic syringes. Why was it advisory? Because the sale of needles was regulated by state law not by county law and the county can't change state law. Anyone with any sense should have known that a county statute can't over ride the state law on the matter.

The year after another initiative was passed, also called Prop O, by coincidence, which reaffirmed that the community standards of San Francisco were support for freedom of speech.
How does that relate to the gun issue? Censorship campaigners have argued that state control of erotic material is necessary because porn allegedly leads to rape. That was the line the feminists Left was taking when they allied themselves with the Christian Right on the matter. They endowed a piece of paper, with an image or some words, with the ability to do bad things while removing that responsibility from the individual. So they blamed an inanimate object for the actions of people. Ditto with guns.

Guns are inert objects which do nothing on their own and have no will to make decisions. People do things with weapons. Some things are very good and some are very bad. Alas human nature is such that great good or great evil is possible with almost anything depending on which human agent is involved.

And with the marraige debate hot in San Francisco voters there ought to consider what they allowed to happen. San Francisco's mayor authorized gay marriage as a legal test. He felt, rightly, that there is a right for gay couples to marry and that the state law unjustly restricted a natural right. To make a legal test of this law he authorized the city to hand out marriage licenses to same sex couples. That is also a time honoured way of challenging a law. San Francisco saw hundreds of couples marry within a few days before a judge stepped in and stopped it. Normally a judge acting this way would be called an "activist judge" by the Republicans but only when he acts in ways they don't like -- the rest of the time they cheer.

Fundamentalists, sundry other kinds of bigots, and others, started pushing initiatives to remove permanently the right of gay couples to marry. It is an ugly thing. The gay community has been livid over it. They have rightly argued that individual rights are not subject to majority approval. Freedom of religion can not be overridden by a majority of atheists or secularists. A community of Christian Scientists can not ban the right to seek medical care. A community of Jehovah's Witnesses can't ban blood transfusion. Minority rights would never do well in majority elections and the Founding Fathers knew this. That is why they never subjected rights to a vote of the majority. Instead they p;recisely delineated the powers of government and stated that unless the power is granted then government does not have the power to intrude in this area.

Precise, enumerated powers were the original Bill of Rights. But some felt that dishonest politicians would still argue for powers not granted and that to protect all rights that some specific rights of the people should be listed as well, as a safeguard. But they also made it clear that the number of rights retained by the people are too vast to be enumerated and that the mere fact that a right, including the right to marry, is not listed does not mean government has the power to restrict said rights. With explicit powers granted, and no others, they saw this as a clear line of demarcation between what the state may or may not do.

Of course the government is now totally out of control, especially under Bush, and is confiscating powers not listed, and destroying rights, including some specifically listed, at a speed exceeding any other bad government in the history of the United States. No where in the Constitution is the government granted the power to restrict the right to keep and bear arms. And then as a double blow to statism the 2nd Amendment explicitly says that the Congress has no such rights. And the 14th Amendment applies Constitutionally protected rights to the people of the sundry states.

So gun ownership is specifically protected by the Constitution with government lacking any enumerated power to restrict the same. Yet the voters of San Francisco felt that majority vote should determine the rights of others. While, at the same time the same voters, or at least a large percentage of them, are aggrieved that the rights of gay couples should be put up to a majority vote. What hypocrites! Rights are not subject to majority vote! Neither the rights of gay couples to marry, nor the rights of individuals to protect themselves, should be subject to majority approval.

That some people dislike gays is no reason to take away the rights of gays. That some people don't like others owning firearms for self defence is no reason to take away the rights of gun owners. Of course the nutbars on the Right are not immune from this criticism. They would quake with anger that the right to bear arms was subjected to a majority vote and then turn around and invokes majorities as a reason to deny gay couples the right to marry. The right to self defense is one that touches people at the deepest level. Without that right no person can feel secure and pursue their happiness or other rights. Equally as important is the right to bond with another person in a loving relationship.

If someone gets irrate that the right to keep and bear arms is infringed but does not feel the same anger when the right to marry is undermined I call them a hypocrite. Ditto if they feel anger over the varioius anti-gay initiatives but no anger over, or even support for, anti-guy initiatives. Rights are rights.

I say the government ought to leave both alone.