National Review / Digital
The Week

(Roman Genn)


Mark Sanford is reported to be eyeing a run for the House seat vacated by Tim Scott, who was appointed to the Senate when Jim DeMint resigned to head up the Heritage Foundation. Sanford, who represented South Carolina’s first congressional district before being elected governor in 2002, would be favored to win the Republican primary there on March 19. Voters will recall the confusion that reigned when he disappeared from the governor’s mansion for a week in June 2009. He was going hiking in Appalachia, he told his staff before he left. He had been in Argentina, he told a reporter who approached him at the airport when he finally returned. In any case, he was somewhere whose name has four syllables bookended by the letter “a.” Now divorced from his former wife and engaged to his soul mate, as he calls her, from Argentina, Sanford sounds ready to look beyond state politics and revive his career in Washington. His new campaign for a seat in the House will test the theory that voters do not particularly care whether they can find their congressman.

A lot of people are finding their health-insurance premiums going up by double-digit percentages, reports Reed Abelson in the New York Times, “even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.” Obama actually promised that American families would save $2,500 a year in premiums under that law, not that Abelson mentions it — or mentions that opponents of the law predicted that its regulations, the worst of which have not yet been implemented, would have this effect. As the months go by, expect to see a large number of businesses dropping their insurance plans, and long delays in the administration’s plans to start administering the exchanges the law directs it to set up. In each case, nothing will be as predictable as the media’s surprise.

Since the massacre in Newtown, liberals have cried for bans on “assault weapons” and high-capacity ammunition magazines. California senator Dianne Feinstein plans to introduce legislation to this effect; her proposal would essentially resurrect the Clinton-era ban, which expired in 2004, while tightening some of the definitions and requiring registration for many guns. “Loopholes” were intrinsic to the ban: Prohibit an arbitrarily selected group of guns, and there will be legal ones with no important differences from the banned ones. No assault-weapon ban, whatever its definition, can have much effect in stemming gun violence. Of the two-thirds of murders that involve firearms, 69 percent involve handguns rather than rifles or shotguns of any kind; very few involve so-called assault rifles; and assault rifles are not functionally different from hunting rifles, so it’s unclear what benefit there is in forcing criminals to switch from one to the other. High-capacity magazines are similarly of dubious benefit to a shooter: They require less frequent reloading, but they also jam more often, and the shooters at Columbine and Virginia Tech reloaded without issue. Feinstein’s measure is unlikely to pass the Republican House, and unlikely to do any good if it becomes law. Congress should not waste time on it.

One loophole that Feinstein’s bill shares with the expired assault-weapons ban is that it would not apply to restricted guns that are already in circulation at the time of enactment (though such guns would need to be registered this time around). Unsurprisingly, Americans have lined up to clear out gun dealers’ existing stocks of these weapons. The sales explosion emphasizes an obvious problem with these kinds of initiatives on their own terms — they may result in more gun buying, not less, at least for a while. And beyond that, as Clayton Cramer has noted on National Review Online, it is not a good idea for people to purchase guns just because they “still can.” Firearms ownership is a serious responsibility, and government policy should not encourage panic buying.

Properly understood, the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press does not require the use of a printing press (as some have flippantly suggested), or even apply only to printed material; but neither does it give reporters license to break any laws they find inconvenient. This point was lost on NBC’s David Gregory, who, while interviewing NRA head Wayne LaPierre, brandished a 30-round magazine, possession of which violates District of Columbia firearms laws. (Network brass had requested a permit for the magazine and been turned down.) When the police announced an investigation, Gregory’s media brethren were up in arms — even as non-reporters were being arrested for possession of similar magazines. Gregory’s intentions were pure and public-spirited, they said, which is also true of people whose attempts to provide for their own defense run afoul of local gun laws. Gregory did neatly illustrate one of the NRA’s points, that laws are no obstacle to those determined to break them.

The Journal News, a Gannett paper serving the suburbs north of New York City, recently secured the names and addresses of pistol-permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties through an open-records request — and published them as an interactive online map. It was foreseeable that drawing attention to permit holders — those gun owners who follow New York State’s strict laws — would not turn out well, and the results did not disappoint: Reformed burglars told Fox News that the list would be incredibly helpful to the current practitioners of their old trade (whether one is looking to steal a gun or to avoid being shot during a theft), inmates at one jail taunted guards whose addresses had been made public, police organizations protested because the addresses of many officers had been included, and a woman who had left an abusive relationship told Newsday that she feared for her safety. Nonetheless, the Journal News is still trying to publish information from Putnam County, whose officials refuse to release it. The Journal News is demonstrating colossally poor judgment. If New York’s state legislature wants to insist that every handgun owner have an official permit, it should act to protect the resulting records from freedom-of-information requests.


January 28, 2013    |     Volume LXV, No. 1

  • Too many Republicans wanted us to take the plunge.
  • A lesson learned, unlearned, relearned, painfully.
  • Republicans should reclaim the 37th president.
  • Our mental-health system is failing those most at risk.
  • How Robert H. Bork galvanized a movement.
  • Personal attacks and cultural collapse did not reduce his joie de vivre.
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Daniel Johnson reviews The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600–1675, by Bernard Bailyn.
  • Elizabeth Powers reviews John Keats: A New Life, by Nicholas Roe.
  • Andrew Roberts reviews The Blood of Free Men: The Liberation of Paris, 1944, by Michael Neiberg.
  • Thomas S. Hibbs reviews The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture: Liberty vs. Authority in American Film and TV, by Paul A. Cantor.
  • Ross Douthat reviews Django Unchained.
  • Richard Brookhiser on the urban pigeon.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .