Traveling in Italy, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met the pope, who said to him, “Thank you for helping to protect the world.” There is a man, born in Germany between the wars, who knows something about history, geopolitics, and reality.
Senator Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) had some worries about the prospect of his former colleague Chuck Hagel’s becoming secretary of defense, but after a 90-minute meeting in the West Wing, Schumer gave Hagel a thumbs-up. Schumer emphasized Hagel’s views about Iran. As a senator, Hagel favored negotiating with Iran and forswearing sanctions, but now, said Schumer, he “expressed the need to keep all options on the table . . . including the use of military force.” But the two biggest options on the table, not mentioned by Schumer, involve Beltway job security. Hagel wants the Pentagon job, and will say or unsay anything to get it, while Schumer wants to become top Senate Democrat whenever Harry Reid moves on (defying a Democratic president would be a stone in his path). In The Second Jungle Book, Kipling describes a conversation between a jackal and a crocodile (mugger). “Now the jackal had spoken just to be listened to, for he knew flattery was the best way of getting things to eat, and the mugger knew that the jackal had spoken for this end, and the jackal knew that the mugger knew, and the mugger knew that the jackal knew that the mugger knew, and so they were all very contented together.”
Attorney General Eric Holder joined the chorus of calls for gun control, saying that we must keep guns “out of the hands of those who are not and should not be allowed to possess them” and impose tough penalties on people who “help funnel weapons to dangerous criminals.” We take it this means he will be turning state’s evidence against those of his underlings involved in Fast and Furious.
In the wake of the Newtown shootings, New York’s state legislature rushed to passage an ill-conceived gun-control law at the behest of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who already is picturing himself as a presidential candidate. The signs of hastiness are upon the legislation, and may be its undoing: The new law bans magazines that hold more than seven rounds, but there are few magazines that hold seven rounds or fewer, making the law in effect a ban on practically all handguns other than revolvers, and on many rifles with detachable magazines. This broad reach probably puts the law in violation of the constitutional limits established by the Heller decision. New York assemblyman Al Graf pointed out that the law does not include an exemption for police officers. The act puts new reporting burdens on mental-health practitioners, who in turn have protested that it will make troubled people less likely to seek professional help. The law also expands the definition of “assault weapon” and tightens other provisions. None of these, it should go without saying, would have made a whit of difference at Sandy Hook. Adam Lanza was carrying a semiautomatic rifle and several magazines, and most of his victims were little children; if he’d had a dozen seven-round magazines rather than a few 30-round magazines, nobody would have stopped him from reloading — which he in fact did, sometimes discarding his magazines before they were empty. New York’s new law is counterproductive and probably unconstitutional, and will make the world safer only for the lawyers who will be enriched through the coming litigation.
The actor Danny Glover has a quaint theory about the Second Amendment, which he learned from a 9/11 “truther” and radio host named Thom Hartmann and shared almost verbatim with students at Texas A&M. “I don’t know if people know the genesis of the right to bear arms,” Glover instructed the crowd while celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. “The Second Amendment comes from the right to protect — for settlers to protect themselves from slave revolts, and from uprisings by Native Americans.” Not quite, Danny, no. That so many Americans have been denied their unalienable rights is certainly a stain on the country’s history. But slave revolts were not a serious concern when the Second Amendment was ratified, nor were they mentioned in the drafting process or in attendant debates. Instead, the focus was on protecting the preexisting rights of Englishmen in the new constitutional order. Time for a survey course.