Re: Thank you for not packing heat

by Andrew C. McCarthy

Cliff, I am a Pete King fan, but I have to part company with him on this one. I am not insensitive to his concerns — I was a “public servant” for over 20 years, and my family and I had to have a protective detail for a chunk of that time. The detail was due to a specific, credible threat. When there is such a threat, or even a less concrete threat, public officials get protection, as they should.

But let’s bear in mind four things. First, in our system, gun possession is constitutionally protected activity. Second, the vast majority of gun-owners in our country are law-abiding American citizens, and there is abundant reason to think that they actually make things safer.

Third, what we commonly call public servants are actually public representatives. Although they should “serve,” many of them are in politics to aggrandize themselves at our expense. Regardless of that, though, their actual job is to be our voice in government. Rep. King’s proposal would put another barrier between law-abiding American citizens and the elected officials who represent those citizens. The suggestion is that law-abiding Americans should be put to a choice between their right to petition government and their right to bear arms. In any other context but the Second Amendment, I daresay that requiring Americans to forfeit one right in order to exercise another would be rejected out of hand as unconstitutional.

Fourth, and finally, the people who would be a threat to our political representatives, like the people who might be a threat to me, are not law-abiding Americans. They are enemy operatives, criminals, or the mentally disturbed. As to the former, once you have crossed the Rubicon of plotting murder, you are not going to be backed up by a law that criminalizes carrying a weapon within a certain distance of your target. For the latter, the laws don’t matter.

That is, Rep. King’s proposal penalizes only the law-abiding, in a way that affects their fundamental rights, without having any effect on the people he is actually worried about — assassins and the deranged. I don’t think Americans should have to tolerate a situation in which their rights are circumscribed, through no fault of their own, by society’s lowest common denominator.

If one is really a public servant, threats come with the territory — which is why real service is so admirable. Fortunately, we have had very, very few instances in which public officials have been attacked. And I strongly suspect you will not see political officials resigning, or aspiring public officials choosing not to seek office, because they sense that our current protections are inadequate. I know the U.S. attorney’s offices have not had trouble finding prosecutors willing to do terrorism cases. 

As Christina Green’s courageous grieving father observed, we are blessed to live in a free society, and the risk of terrible acts by bad or disturbed people is the price we pay. Of course if there are sensible ways to reduce risk, we should consider them. But if proposals don’t materially reduce the risk, we should not adopt them, even if the proponent’s heart is in the right place.