Isn't it just like a traitorous Democrat to want to put guns in the hands of our enemies — convicted felons who are the enemies of our community and terrorists who are the enemies of liberty, America, Western Civilization, and cute puppies? That's what we have in Jason Altmire, a Democrat who is so liberal that he wants to arm America's enemies to make it easier for us to surrender to the forces of Islamofascism.
Oh, but wait, Jason Altmire is a conservative Democrat! Since when did conservative Democrats start supporting America's enemies? And why are conservatives of all sorts, even in the Republican Party, joining Altmire in defending the constitutional right of suspected terrorists to buy and own guns? They never showed nearly this much interest in defending any other constitutional rights of suspected or accused terrorists.
According to American conservatives, if you're a suspected terrorist then you don't have a right to counsel, a right to be brought before a judge, or even a right to be told what your rights might be...but you do have a right to buy pistols, rifles, shotguns, and as much ammunition as you can carry. Yeah, that makes sense.
Jason Altmire: Poster Boy for the Blue Dogs
The original inspiration for writing on this topic was experiencing the naked, unprincipled extremism of Jason Altmire. I was disappointed to see him announce to the world that his politics lay somewhere to the right of Joseph McCarthy by being one of only three other politicians in Congress to support Joe Lieberman's unconstitutional and unconscionable desire to strip people of their citizenship simply for being accused of associating with allegedly terrorist organizations.
It didn't end there, however. Recently there has been a proposal to ban from buying guns people who are on the "No Fly List," the theory being that if you are so dangerous that you can't be allowed to fly on any commercial aircraft anywhere in the nation, then maybe you shouldn't be allowed to have a gun. According to the Government Accountability Office, people already on this terrorism watch list bought firearms or explosives 1,119 times between 2004 and February 2010; in just 109 cases were any of them denied.
And Altmire's opinion about this? Well, presumably a recent reply he sent to constituents regarding other gun control legislation would apply:
"As you may know, I am also a member of the National Rifle Association and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. Gun control legislation is not only unconstitutional, but I believe it is also ineffective. The Constitution provides all American citizens with the right to bear arms and I will continue to urge my colleagues to oppose any legislation limiting individuals' ability to protect themselves and their families."
Notice how absolutist Jason Altmire's language here is: he denies that any gun control legislation is constitutional, he denies that any gun control legislation is effective, and opposes any legislation that would limit individuals' (not citizens — he's referring to anyone and everyone on U.S. territory) ability to buy and own guns. There is no way to uphold the principles expressed here and also support what most people would regard as fairly sensible gun control legislation: keeping guns out of the hands of felons and terrorists.
I doubt that Altmire consciously or knowingly wants to sell guns to felons or terrorists, but he's committed himself to supporting such sales — the only option open to him is to consciously and knowingly engage in flagrant hypocrisy. That's a common condition for politicians, I know, but it's not one that should be accepted. Politicians like Jason Altmire should be forced to own the implications of their own words or retract those words, not allowed to weasel out of them by being hypocritical in the hope the their constituents will be too stupid to compare what they said yesterday to what they said today.
And that's why we should all keep repeating: Jason Altmire wants to sell guns to felons and terrorists. His name should be tied to that position unless and until he's willing to admit that he spoke too broadly and adopts a less absolutist position.
Immoral Conservatives & Incoherent Liberals (Or Vice-Versa)
To be fair, Jason Altmire isn't the only conservative politician who is facing a crisis of their own hypocrisy. The proposal to prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns is creating a problem for conservatives all over — and it's entirely their own fault. Conservatives have spent decades opposing gun control legislation of just about every sort, committing themselves to an absolutist or nearly-absolutist position on gun control.
At the same time, though, so many conservatives have also been committing themselves in the past years to denying suspected and accused terrorists basic civil rights. Conservatives who never complained about the unchecked, unnerving power of the government to deny people the ability to fly are now worried about the same power being used to deny people the ability to own a gun. The fact that these conservatives have always opposed civil liberties and rules like Miranda warnings helps, of course, but now these positions are coming into conflict.
Lindsay Graham has said, "We're talking about a constitutional right here," and thate he would never support a bill that would force "innocent Americans" to "pay the cost of going to court to get their gun rights back." Apparently, though, Lindsay Graham would support bills that would force innocent Americans to pay the costs of going to court to get other rights back — assuming, of course, that he even allows them to see the inside of a courtroom in the first place. Don't bet on it.
Aaron Titus, privacy director of a Washington-based group called the Liberty Coalition, insists that Congress "should not spend time debating whether to take away terrorists' guns, bombs, cell phones, cars or other instruments of terrorism. If a person is a dangerous terrorist, then he should be thrown in jail." At the same time, though, Titus says that the proposal to prevent these same people from owning a gun "is based on the assumption that all individuals on terrorist watch lists are terrorists," and since that assumption is impossible to check then it's wrong to act on it.
All of the arguments conservatives have tried to use to defend the No Fly List and denying civil rights to suspected terrorists will also apply to the question of gun ownership; all of their arguments for opposing limits on gun ownership will also apply to the No Fly List and how law enforcement treats accused or suspected terrorists. So long as those topics were part of separate conversations, conservatives could compartmentalize and pretend that they had nothing to do with each other. Now, though, the two topics are part of the exact same conversation, and conservatives risk having an aneurysm from trying to reconcile them.
Sharpen the Crisis!
I'm in favor of sensible regulation of guns, not regulation just for the sake of regulation — the former will enhance safety without infringing on rights, whereas the latter will just make people overconfident about their safety. Putting everyone from the No Fly List on a No Gun List would not be sensible regulation of guns because it's already not sensible regulation of the airlines. However, I must admit that I'm sorely tempted to support the plan anyway.
My reason is fairly straightforward: perhaps by pushing the problem to such an absurd extreme, the crisis surrounding the loss of basic civil rights will finally reach the point where sleepwalking Americans will wake up a little bit and notice what's going on. That probably won't happen, though, through increasing losses of the rights which both Bush and Obama have been stripping from us.
For too many Americans, the only right that seems to matter to them is the right to own a gun. Thus it may be that the only way to get those Americans to wake up is for them to hear that their gun rights might be infringed upon — even if only hypothetically, at a distance. They don't mind if someone, somewhere loses free speech rights, habeas corpus rights, or even citizenship (so long as they are brown and have foreign-sounding names), but as soon as someone might no longer be able to buy fifty automatic rifles every month, it becomes a constitutional crisis.
Well, if that's what it takes, then fine. Applying the secret No Fly List to gun ownership is stupid and counterproductive because the No Fly List is stupid and counterproductive, but if that's the only sort of issue these people will notice, then let's run with it.