In the debate over the Ground Zero Mosque, the Left’s trump card has been the language in the First Amendment stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” All of us correctly understand this to mean that government cannot create a state faith, nor can it dictate the religious tenets of an existing faith. A subset of this, of course, is that government cannot, through indirect laws, make the practice of a given faith so difficult that it is tantamount to a religious proscription.
Shrill voices on the Left are now asserting, however, that the First Amendment must be understood to mean that an ostensibly religious building site cannot be touched by any other laws whatsoever, including zoning laws (which invariably include something about the character of the neighborhood) nor can it be the subject to that other First Amendment right, free speech.
The Left is much less excited about having Constitutional rights trump zoning laws when the subject is guns. If one operates in a logical world, this is a peculiar Constitutional lapse.
Guns are virtually equal to religion in the Constitutional hierarchy, coming in at Second on the Amendment list: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Let me repeat that: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This is very strong language, and arguably much broader in original intent than the First Amendment’s language regarding religion. The First Amendment merely instructs Congress not to make a law establishing a religion, which we interpret to mean, as well, not to mess with existing faiths. The Second Amendment, though, rebuffs any attempts whatsoever, whether by Congress or unnamed others (a reasonable inference given the passive voice construction), to mess with the right to bear arms. It is, as phrased, a sacrosanct right.
Notwithstanding this explicit language, federal and local governments have for decades made laws messing with the right to bear arms. One of the most significant laws is the way in which we mandate that the government gets to control every legal arms transaction. Sales have to be in licensed stores, with massive amounts of paperwork, all going into government databases. I’m not going to argue whether this is an infringement or not, although one could reasonable claim that these are indirect laws making the purchase of guns so difficult as to be tantamount to an arms proscription. I’ll just note that it happens — and that Leftists are in the vanguard of making it so.
Those on the Left are also perfectly happy dictating the locations for gun shops, with San Francisco offering a perfect illustration. In that once fair City, a totally legal gun shop, one that’s been in business for 50 years as the same location, is trying to re-open in the Bernal Heights district after a short hiatus. Even as the local merchants pay lip service to the right to bear arms, they are up in arms (pun intended) that the means for facilitating this Constitutional right could appear in their neighborhood (emphasis mine):
Officially, the organizations are not opposed to people owning guns, Alliance member Jaime Ross told me. They’d just “rather have something the neighborhood could enjoy – a laundry or wine and cheese shop.”
[L]local Ingleside police Capt. Louis Cassanego says that as far as he knows, “there’s never been a problem.” The captain is for the permit “so long as certain precautions are taken,” including all legal requirements and then some. But e-mails he’s seeing are running 10-1 against the store’s permit application.
I’m willing to bet, although there is no way that I can prove it, that the same people writing those emails against the store’s permit application are strident in their denunciation of those who contend that the Ground Zero Mosque is inappropriate for the Ground Zero site. Certainly my assumption would be consistent with the political ideological that animates support for the mosque and disdain for gun rights.
(A nice coda to this story, and one that gives it a lovely San Francisco twist, is the fact that one of the groups most strongly supportive of the store’s reopening is called the “Pink Pistols,” a gay gun rights organization. An unofficial spokesman for that group explains that, since California has enacted a law prohibiting the sale of ammunition through the mail (yet another indirect law infringing on the right), it’s greener for City residents to be able to walk, bike or bus to the store, than to have to drive to a far away location.)