Nicholas D. Kristof appears unclear on the Constitutional concept

“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.”

If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s a committed gun control guy, I might have mistaken Nicholas Kristof’s NYTs column today for a perfectly realized, Iowahawk-esque gun control parody.  He opens, of course, with the “How did Jared Loughner get a gun” question.  He does not answer that question by pointing to the fact that local law enforcement, led by that colorful liberal Sheriff Dubnik, had let Loughner run wild for years.  That would have been a good answer.  Instead, he goes directly for the gun kill (pardon my metaphoric language):

To protect the public, we regulate cars and toys, medicines and mutual funds. So, simply as a public health matter, shouldn’t we take steps to reduce the toll from our domestic arms industry?

To prove his bona fides to ask this insanely (and inanely) silly question, Kristof waffles on for a couple of paragraphs about his youth with a gun in his hand.  He also acknowledges that guns are less of a risk than swimming pools (and, one might add, bathtubs and cars), but that doesn’t stop him.  Having cleared the decks, he takes the momentous leap to compares America’s gun situation to Yemen’s:

(The only country I’ve seen that is more armed than America is Yemen. Near the town of Sadah, I dropped by a gun market where I was offered grenade launchers, machine guns, antitank mines, and even an anti-aircraft weapon. Yep, an N.R.A. dream! No pesky regulators. Just terrorism and a minor civil war.)

How to solve this crisis:  Treat guns like toys.  Kristof doesn’t mean, of course, that every kid should find one in his Christmas stocking.  He means that the government should regulate guns like crazy:

• Limit gun purchases to one per month per person, to reduce gun trafficking. And just as the government has cracked down on retailers who sell cigarettes to minors, get tough on gun dealers who sell to traffickers.

• Push for more gun safes, and make serial numbers harder to erase.

• Improve background checks and follow Canada in requiring a 28-day waiting period to buy a handgun. And ban oversize magazines, such as the 33-bullet magazine allegedly used in Tucson. If the shooter had had to reload after firing 10 bullets, he might have been tackled earlier. And invest in new technologies such as “smart guns,” which can be fired only when near a separate wristband or after a fingerprint scan.

Not content with roping Canada into the discussion, Kristof also cites to Australia’s gun control efforts to make his case.

In Kristof’s column, however, one word is conspicuously absent:  Constitution.  Perhaps Kristof figures that, if he just ignores it, no one will notice that he doesn’t deal with an explicit Constitutional limitation on government power.  He’s probably right, too, insofar as his column is read almost entirely by people who share his sentiments about guns.  Heck, 20 years ago, I would have agreed with him.  If asked, at that time I would have said that the Second Amendment is so narrowly written that it requires people to train with a militia as a prerequisite for them to have guns.  If they’re not going to train (a la the Swiss model), the government gets to take their guns away.  It didn’t occur to me that a militia is a citizen military regardless of training or, more importantly, that the whole point of the Second Amendment is to protect the people from their government, not to allow the government to decide which of its citizens gets guns or to take those guns back at will.

As far as I know, there is nothing in the Bill of Rights that mentions toys.  Or maybe I just missed the Second and a Half Amendment, the one saying that “A well-adjusted, exhausted, entertained child population being necessary to the happiness and security of a free State, the right of America’s children to play with any damn toy they so desire shall not be infringed.”  Nah.  I don’t think I missed it.  It doesn’t exist.  That’s why citizens are fairly sanguine about federal safety rules when it comes to toys — toys aren’t an explicitly protected product under the Constitution, one that cannot be the subject of government meddling and restrictions.

The Founding Fathers, however, did see fit to exempt guns from government control — not just federal control, but any government control.  One could make a very good argument that even the gun laws we currently have (registration, waiting periods, etc.) violate the Constitution.

It’s true that the Founding Fathers did not envision the gun world we have today, one that makes guns easy to manufacture or that produces an astonishing variety of guns, some of them with more lethal efficiency than others.  Their inability to predict the future, though, does not give Progressives the right simply to ignore them.  The Constitution is the contract between government and people.  This marvelous contract has within it mechanisms for amending it if it no longer serves the people.

Simply ignoring the Constitution is not one of the contractual options.  If Kristof is interested in having guns regulated in precisely the same way toys are, perhaps he should spearhead a Constitutional amendment that repeals the Second Amendment.  Should he do so, I don’t wish him success, and I don’t see him having much luck, but that’s still what he should do.  To write an entire column comparing a Constitutionally protected instrument to a toy is just fatuous and stupid.

UPDATE:  Thanks, pst314, for bringing my attention to my horrible Kristol/Kristof mixups.  I’ve corrected them all, but I’m really embarrassed.  Sometimes my brain and my fingers live lives independent of each other, but that’s no excuse for making such a heinous error.

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  • pst314

    “Kristol waffles on for a couple of paragraphs”
    D’oh: Twice you refer to Kristol when you mean Kristof. I think Bill Kristol would be slightly peeved with you. :-)

  • Danny Lemieux

    He also doesn’t get out and about much. Yemen?
    Switzerland and New Zealand have higher levels of gun ownership than the U.S. And, is he seriously suggesting that the gun industry in the U.S isn’t regulated?
    Kristoff is also apparently unaware of how Australia’s murder and other violent crime rate soared once they banned gun ownership. No ‘tanks, Mate!
    Like you said, Book: it must be a parody!

  • Charles Martel

    I belong to a discreet group of Constitution fetishists. Most of us are married to dyed-in-the-wool liberals, so we have to hide our activities.

    We try to meet every other Tuesday in an out-of-the-way restaurant one county over. At first, we moved from restaurant to restaurant, but finally settled on a little Mexican place. It helps that most of patrons there speak only Spnaish, so when we get into quarrels about enumerated powers or federalism, nobody around us knows what the crazy Gringos are talking about.

    I won’t say that we’ve totally descended into fetishism. For example, when one of our Jewish members suggested that we roll the Constitution into a scroll, we rejected the idea. We also rejected a Catholic member’s suggestion that we genuflect whenever we awere in the presence of the document.

    But we certainly do honor and revere the Constitution. In the course of a year each member of our group is entrusted to take the document home in its 24K gold-plated box with the sapphire inlays for two weeks of safekeeping. (It’s a bitch for the men to hide the thing at home, and one of us had to be really quick on his feet when his wife demanded to know why the box was not for her.)

    When the box enters the restaurant, we stand with bowed heads until it is set at the head of the table. The current guardian carefully opens the lid and removes the precious paper from it. He then offers it to the guardian who will succeed him. That person begins a careful reading of a previously selected article.

    We have a sort of liturgical calendar in which readings of particular articles are scheduled throughout the year. Our favorite reader is the Jewish guy, who once had studied to become a rabbi. Although he now runs a remedial writing course for college seniors, his previous oratorical training shines through. Like the loving followers who used to cluster around the late Rabbi Schneerson, delirious joy radiates from our faces as he reads the text.

    The highlight of our year is The Reading of the Rights, a three-hour dinner at which we each read and comment upon the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Some of us, especialy the more militant, are moved to tears by a slow reading of the Second Amendment, although there have been robust arguments about its punctuation.

    Our southern members sometimes weep, sometimes gnash their teeth when the Ninth and Tenth amendments are read. Several of them, despite having lived in California for decades, descend into deep Delta accents. This can slow down the proceedings considerably, and we often appoint a northerner to chair the meeting so he/she can urge the southerners to talk faster.

    my wife just came in. . .more later!

  • Ymarsakar

    Hey Martel. I think you can use that story of yours to scare Leftists with. Given their delusional paranoia, who knows what they would be thinking once hearing ya.

  • MacG

    It is curious how the Libs on power only care about gun control when one of theirs gets shot.  It would be curious to see the difference between when Reagan got shot and Giffords.  Did the R’s get all frenetic about banning guns?

    The thing is that the founders said that this type of Government structure would only work for a religious and moral people.  The more we shove religion and morality of the picture the more laws we get.  Witness the Garden of Eden they only had one tree from which they could not eat.  Free run of the place and live forever.  That did not last so long then we the get big Ten. OK, Then Leviticus and it’s 600 something laws.  The more we stray from the maxim Love G-d with all you heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbore as ourselves the more laws we will need. Unfortunately without a canon (standard) to measure such laws we are doomed to man being final arbiter and “Doing that which is right in his own eyes.” 

  • Spartacus

    1) Had the Founding Fathers been able to foresee the distant future with even more precision than they did, the Third Amendment would have read, “A well informed citizenry being necessary to the prudent governance of the republic, no infringements shall be made upon the Internet.”  The spirit and intent of the Second Amendment was always about the prevention of tyranny, by whatever means necessary.  (And I trust they would have still gotten to that bit about the quartering of troops, since that was also on the theme of tyranny.)
    2) Martel, that was bloody brilliant.

  • Bookworm

    Liberals defend the Constitution too, BTW.  One of them told my children that the Australian Julian Assange didn’t do anything wrong when he published stolen classified documents because he was simply exercising his right to free speech.  Oh, yeah!

  • Zhombre

    Spartacus: if the Founders had been really prescient, they would have scribbled  ‘Nicholas Kristof is an ass’ in the margins.

  • Spartacus

    Mrs. Bookworm — In all fairness, if Assange is going to be tried for any offense, it should be in the United States.  All they have in Australia are kangaroo courts.
    Zhombre — Actually, I know a guy who knows a guy whose dentists’s second cousin’s girlfriend is a film editor who worked on National Treasure.  There was a “Nicholas Kristof is an ass” scene, but unfortunately it was sacrificed in the push down to 130 minutes.  Still a pretty watchable movie, though.

  • Charles Martel

    Book, any way we can get SADIE and Spartacus together?

    “All they have in Australia are kangaroo courts,” indeed.

  • Bookworm

    You realize, Charles, that such a meeting would have all the power of nuclear fusion (or do I mean fission?  I always get the two confused).

  • Charles Martel

    Either way, it would be explosive.

  • Jose

    The same day as the Giffords shooting, there was a story about a man who was bludgened to death and castrated in a NY hotel.  Maybe we should regulate blunt objects

    Or there was the guy in Boise, Idaho that put his wife in the trunk and drove over to have supper with his Mom.  After supper he stabbed Mom to death.  Fortunately the wife escaped.  Maybe we should regulate… what?

    Just like the TSA, Libs are focused on the objects, at least “evil” ones like guns and bombs.  The problem is, however, wackos. 

    Of course, if wackos were regulated, then liberals wouldn’t be a problem either.

  • gpc31

    I’ve said it before and I think it bears repeating:

    Nicholas Kristof is remarkably stupid.  Is this because of or despite the fact that he was a Rhodes Scholar from Harvard?

    I cannot stand the substitution of moral preening for intellect from our self-styled “betters”.

    Roger Kimball recently wrote a splendid essay called “Liberty vs. Benevolence” for The New Criterion, in which he quoted Walter Bagehot: 

    “The most melancholy of human reflections, perhaps, is that, on the whole, it is a question whether the benevolence of mankind does most good or harm.  Great good, no doubt, philanthropy does, but then it also does great evil.  It augments so much vice…and this is entirely because excellent people fancy they can do much by rapid action — that they will most benefit the world when they most relieve their own feelings.”

    Doesn’t that describe Kristof, Friedman, to a “T”?  They believe “that they will most benefit the world when they most relieve their own feelings”?  Liberal white guilt has a long ancestry. 

  • Ymarsakar

    Gpc, his IQ makes his foolishness even more foolish.