from the Congress Action newsletter

Federal Threats

by: Kim Weissman
December 12, 1999

It had to happen. The only surprise is that it took so long.

The Clinton administration, which never fails to stoop to the most venal, shameless, and unconstitutional methods to implement its dangerous schemes, has jumped on the bandwagon of lawsuits against gun makers, and is threatening to file its own lawsuit. The federal agency involved is the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the administration has made clear that their goal is to force a settlement. Bruce Reed, a Clinton domestic policy advisor, boasted, "We hope the prospect of a lawsuit by the public housing authorities will intensify the pressure the cities and states are already putting on the industry to reach an agreement."

Clinton mouthpiece Joe Lockhart was even more blatant in announcing the administration's intention to ignore the Constitution: "Should [the legislative branch] choose not to [pass laws], we have other ways of doing it." No, Joe, its supposed to be the Congress that passes laws, not a president acting as though he has been anointed king. Congressional refusal to legislate does not authorize the president to do so through threats of lawsuits.

To suggest, as this administration always does, that the only reason Congress refused to enact more gun laws is because they were "bought" by the gun lobby, is the same as saying that those who voted for those gun laws were "bought" by the anti-gun lobby. Naturally, the gun banners are overjoyed by the threat of federal intervention. "I think it is a watershed development", crowed Dennis Henigan, of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.

The ostensible basis for the threatened federal suit is criminal gun-related violence in government housing projects. In today's America we can't blame the actual criminals for the crimes they commit. We have to find someone else to blame, and the first thought that naturally comes to any good leftist is to blame guns. So if we leave the individual criminals out of the equation, let's see who else we can blame. We could, arguably and with even more legitimacy, blame the Department of Housing and Urban Development itself for fostering the violence of which it complains:

For 30 years Freddie Garcia worked in the housing projects of San Antonio, Texas, rehabilitating drug addicts in government projects. His faith-based Victory Fellowship had remarkable success, such success that in 1984 the mayor of San Antonio, Henry Cisneros, named Garcia a "benefactor of the community." Then Cisneros became Secretary of HUD under Bill Clinton. Displaying the typical hostility of this administration to anything involving religion, in 1996 the bureaucrats at HUD decided to try to regulate Garcia's Victory Fellowship out of existence. The problem, from HUD's perspective, was that Garcia used religious faith to achieve success; while HUD insisted on secular drug treatment devoid of religion, an approach which resulted in a notable lack of success. And HUD's failures are more costly than Garcia's successes. So Garcia and his Victory Fellowship had to go. It's not nice to make HUD bureaucrats look bad.

Until the republican Congress enacted reforms of HUD housing projects in 1996 — over the objections of the democrats — housing authorities generally had limited authority to crack down on gangs and criminals infesting pubic housing projects. The left-liberal establishment has often made it difficult, if not impossible, to police public housing projects and control crime.

In 1989, for example, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) instituted a series of reforms aimed at reclaiming the Chicago projects from gangs and criminals. The CHA began requiring positive identification, such as photo ID's, of visitors to public housing projects. In the opinion of Vincent Lane, then chairman of the CHA, this policy discouraged the entry of drug dealers into the projects. The American Civil Liberties Union objected, and had the ID practice curtailed. The CHA also set curfews, ejecting people who were not on the leases, yet who were living in housing units. Often these turned out to be men living with their girlfriends and the children they had fathered, who were legitimately living in the units. The curfews induced many of those men to marry the women, thus, in Lane's opinion, stabilizing families in the projects. The ACLU objected, and had the curfews curtailed.

Several years later, following a series of incidents in which children fell out of windows and were injured, the CHA began installing child-guards on the windows. At one point, the workmen installing the child-guards were fired upon by gang members with automatic weapons (seems that they ignored Clinton's "assault weapon" ban — imagine that: criminals disobeying the law). The CHA instituted a weapons sweep and confiscated a number of illegal weapons. The ACLU objected, and had the weapons sweeps cancelled.

It must be noted that the American Civil Liberties Union also generally opposes laws that punish crimes committed with guns. When California enacted a law providing an additional 10 years in prison for anyone who committed a crime while carrying a gun, the Southern California branch of the ACLU objected, preferring tougher gun control laws instead. Rather than target the actual criminals who are actually committing crimes with guns, the ACLU prefers to target law abiding citizens exercising their Constitutional rights. As has become painfully obvious, the civil liberties which the American Civil Liberties Union pretends to defend do not include the Second Amendment. Apparently, the ACLU's copy of the Bill of Rights only contains nine amendments (actually far fewer than that — but the ACLU's shamelessly selective reading of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is another subject for another time).

Under our form of government, it is the responsibility of the legislature — the Congress, not the courts or the executive branch — to enact laws that establish public policy. This fact would probably come as a surprise to the majority of public education students who in a recent test failed to demonstrate even the most rudimentary understanding of civics or the way our government is supposed to work. This Constitutional structure is also obviously unknown to the deep thinkers at the New York Times.

Reporting on the threatened federal lawsuit against gun manufacturers, the Times opined, "If a federal settlement does produce significant new gun controls, the executive branch would accomplish through legal pressure what the legislative branch could not accomplish through politics." The Times apparently likes the idea of using "legal pressure" — the brute force of the federal leviathan — to circumvent the legislature and the Constitution. And the Times expects that the American public will like that prospect: "Thus pressure is growing on gun makers to negotiate a settlement… That is a prospect that Americans anxious to prevent more school shootings can only applaud." Sadly for the continued existence of our republic, the Times is probably right. Most Americans probably will, in their ignorance about how our government is supposed to work, applaud.

The threatened federal lawsuit is merely a mirror of the many lawsuits that have already been filed against gun manufacturers by various cities across the country. Some Americans, however, are not taking this shameless assault on our Constitution lying down.

On November 30, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), a firearms civil rights legal defense, research and educational organization located in Bellevue, Washington, filed a federal lawsuit in Washington, DC against the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and certain individual mayors for conspiracy to violate civil and Constitution rights, including the First, Second and Ninth Amendments; as well as the creation of an undue burden on lawful interstate commerce. "We warned both the USCM and individual mayors of our intent to defend our rights and those of millions of law-abiding Americans. We gave them every opportunity to cease and desist their warrantless attacks." stated Alan Gottlieb, SAF founder. "Now, they are being sued; while their meritless and frivolous lawsuits are being dealt serious blows in the courts." The SAF lawsuit alleges three counts:

Count 1: violation of lawful interstate commerce. The mayors' legal challenges have already forced several gun makers to declare bankruptcy, severely downsize their product lines, and/or raise firearm prices, thus hurting consumers – including taxpayer-funded federal, state and local law enforcement agencies – all across the country.

Count 2: violation of First Amendment rights. The mayor’s lawsuits have prevented the gun manufacturers from educating consumers about their products out of fear of seeing ads in the courtrooms, not to mention that many of the mayor’s lawsuits are trying to eliminate or severely curtail the ability of running ads on firearm products in general.

Count 3: violation of the Second and Ninth Amendment rights. The Second Amendment is an individual right to keep and bear arms according to the recent United States v. Emerson (1999). The mayors' attempt to abridge the right to keep and bear arms by putting gun makers out of business causes a violation of the individual’s means to self-defense which is recognized in every courtroom and falls under the Ninth Amendment rights.

In announcing the lawsuit, SAF founder Gottleib observed,

"As more and more of these city mayors’ suits are dismissed, the more it looks like these suits were only intended to financially injure gun owners and the federally licensed producers and sellers of firearms. In addition, the USCM readily admits that they are seeking legislation in the courtrooms, which is a clear violation of the separation of powers upon which our great country was founded. This is cause to hold individual mayors and the USCM responsible for their conspiratorial and unconstitutional assaults on law-abiding people. The mayors are on notice that their lawsuits will not be free. The Second Amendment Foundation and gun owners across the country will make them accountable for attempting to steal in the judicial branch what they have failed to rob in the legislative branch."

If there are any federal judges who still understand their Constitutional duties, the municipal and federal lawsuits will be thrown out of court, and those public officials who intentionally subverted the democratic process will be held legally accountable. If the constituents of those mayors value their liberty at all — regardless of what they think about guns — they will vote those mayors out of office at the first opportunity.

But there is no anger at those mayors, or at the abusive lawsuits. And why are we not willing to vociferously condemn the Clinton administration for it's own assaults on the Constitutional separation of powers, on the Bill of Rights, and on the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens? Have we become so ignorant that we no longer even know how far outside the law and Constitutional restraint our government operates? Or have we become so lazy and so jaded with our freedom that even if we do know, we simply don't care? Are we foolish enough to believe that our liberty is eternal?

ConstitutionThe wise old man of our founding generation, Benjamin Franklin, said, "They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither safety nor liberty." Franklin was right. This nation was unique in creating the first republic in which governmental power was limited and individual liberty protected by a written Constitution, in which power was granted by the people to the government. For over two centuries our example inspired people around the world to strive for their own freedom. We are now unique again, being the first people to willingly throw away our freedom, intentionally or through ignorance giving up our Constitutional protections and with them, our liberty. We are willing, even eager, to hand control over our lives to demagogues and tyrants, in return for the illusion of safety. "Consensual tyranny", one person has called it.

"History will teach us that...of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants." — Alexander Hamilton

"The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its turn, but at a more distant period." — Thomas Jefferson

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it." — Thomas Paine


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