The Oval Office response to San Bernardino

Yesterday evening, President Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office on the subject of the San Bernardino shooting and terrorism in general.  Much of the speech was about steps he is taking with law enforcement, intelligence, and our global allies to hunt down terrorists of the Islamic State, but as anticipated, he also repeated measures he wants to see done on what he called “gun safety.”

Once more, Obama called for a ban on what he labeled “assault weapons.”  How many times must we say that the Assault Weapons Ban passed during the Clinton Administration did not save lives?  That’s not just the opinion of someone pushing for fewer gun laws.  It’s the judgement of ProPublica.  And since so-called assault weapons are rarely used in crimes, I have to state again my suspicion that attempts at banning them are only for the purpose of creating a precedent for banning other classes of firearms.

As we’ve been told by politicians and advocates supporting gun control, Obama tonight said that people on the no-fly watch list should be denied the ability to purchase guns.  He even asked who could argue against such a demand.

Well, I am someone who can do that.  It’s unclear if he means the no-fly list or the broader terrorist watch list, but in either case, I have to ask if secret lists with no obvious method for appeal or even due process is in keeping with the values that Obama swore to uphold.  Denying gun rights challenges the validity of the Second Amendment, something that many in the president’s party have no qualms about doing, but concerns about violations of the Fourth Amendment and other protections of due process have often come from the left wing of American politics, as illustrated by the ACLU’s challenge to the list.

If we establish a principle that one right can be suspended merely on suspicion, what is to prevent any other right from being curtailed in the same manner?  Day after day I’m told that the rights protected by the Second Amendment are outdated.  Perhaps I missed the sell-by date in the Bill of Rights.  Some amendments have had a requirement for being approved by the states within a time limit, but certainly nothing in the first ten gives any indication that these are protections of rights that will terminate after some condition—years, advance of technology, or other—has been met.  But if we accept the argument that gun rights must be compromised away because times have changed and the threats are greater, at what point will we be told that we cannot worship or refrain from worshiping as we choose, that we cannot speak our minds if what we have to say isn’t in support of those in power, that the privacy we expect in our own homes makes work too hard for law enforcement?

So I say to the president and to Americans generally, I don’t want politicians to try to make me feel safe.  I don’t need my government to remove all potential harms from my path.  What I require, what is in fact in the job description of every elected office, is that from my local school board all the way up to the highest offices in this land, those elected to be our leaders will uphold the constitution of this nation.  That includes respecting the limits of government power laid out in that document, and it especially means protecting our rights.

Politicians may not listen now.  But in less than a year, we get to decide who stays in office and who gets sent packing.  If our leaders won’t do their jobs, it’s up to us to do ours.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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