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The chutzpah of audacity….

It is a point so basic to constitutional law that every textbook on American government makes note of it — and a point so inspired by “common sense” that one would question the sanity (if not intelligence) of anyone who argues to the contrary.

In any social context there are no absolute rights. Period.

Perhaps the best known expression of this “duh!” principle is Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous observation that even the “most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic….” And despite the ground-breaking nature of Justice Scalia’s opinion in the Washington DC gun case that finally established the existence of a “right to keep and bear arms” in the Second Amendment, his opinion clearly acknowledges the limited nature of that right.

But, of course, had you listened to most of the media headline blaring coverage you would miss that point. As usual it was over simplified or the qualifier was handled with speed and little or no comment.

The same is true of the sound bite coverage of Obama’s statement on the decision which now seems to have him abandoning his supposed long-standing position on the far left as another pandering move to the gun-toting right. It would have been one thing for him to come out with some little tidbit about having gone out shooting a rifle at his grandparents home in Kansas (or Hawaii, or wherever), but it is another for him to make the “constitutional-law-professor” statement he offered on the subject. When

“asked about gun rights, Obama said, “I believe the Second Amendment means something.” Weighing in on a long-running debate among scholars, Obama said he believes the Constitution confers on individuals the right to bear arms, and was not intended by the framers to simply provide for militias. The senator once taught constitutional law.

“There is an individual right to bear arms. But it’s subject to common sense regulation, just like most of our rights are subject to common sense regulations,” said Obama.

The statement, by the way, was reported on February 15, 2008 while he was on the campaign trail in Wisconsin. It was a position he reasserted on the day the Supreme Court decision came down in DC v. Heller.

But that is not the point of this post. Rather it is the news in this morning’s New York Times that a Georgia gun rights group (self described as “Georgia’s no-compromise voice for gun owners”) is going to court to get the folks at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to allow folks to carry legally concealed weapons onto the premises. It seems that the Georgia state legislature had recently lifted some restrictions on the right to carry concealed weapons in public transportation facilities, and armed (pardon the unintended pun) with that and the Heller decision the gun rights folks have asserted their claim. The airport manager’s response was a no-brainer, noting that the airport’s policies are subject to federal law which maintains legal restrictions (like those given a thumbs up by Scalia in the Heller decision).

One wonders, however, about folks like those pursuing that lawsuit. Is it that they just don’t get it — or is this another (albeit distorted) example of the “audacity of hope…”?

July 2nd, 2008 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments