Sitting here a couple of days after the historic Presidential Election of 2008, and listening to the first reports of the President-Elect’s initial appointment of his right hand men – virtually all cronies of the Chi-town “Machine” ilk – I remarked to my significant other, “Sounds like he’s gonna create Chicago-on-the-Potomac.” Significant Other, a Chicagoan born and bred, looked at me in shock and said, “OMG, you’re channeling John Kass! He just used that exact same description!”
Kass, my favorite Chicago Tribune columnist, is a voice of practical reason and therefore a good channel to dial into. Chicago, you’ll remember, banned private ownership of handguns within the city limits, and also sales of any firearms, many years ago. Obama is on record as vehemently opposing private citizens’ rights to carry concealed handguns in public, and according to NRA, supports a 500% tax on all ordinary firearms and ammunition. So, you’ll understand the concern of our reader Long Island Mike, who wrote the following after reading my blog entry “Oh, Bummer”:
I respect you tremendously as a man who has a foot in the LE world and is an American. So I have a question for you. Now understand that I am building a scenario here of an extreme situation. If the worst of the worst happens and Mr. O, Ms. P and Mr. R all turn against the gun owners and the Feds pass a really tough AWB. Then they appoint a Supreme Court justice that tips the scales on Heller 180 degrees. What will the reaction of LE be if they start even a limited confiscation?
Mike, your question is a legitimate one. A few very experienced voices in the fight for gun owners’ civil rights believe that Obama and company may tread lightly on the gun issue, for fear of squandering the huge political capital he’s now bringing to his party, on what is essentially a culture war against firearms owners. However, the President-Elect’s history in this area – and that of the Chicago Machine culture that he seems to be so strongly building on during his administration’s formative days after the victory – makes me more than a little pessimistic.
To answer your question, I think a sweeping national confiscation of property that was lawfully purchased and responsibly owned would probably die in its nest before it could spread its wings. Even before our nation’s police were given the order to confiscate in that hypothetical situation, the execution of that order would be restrained by the courts. I’ve long believed that the Fourth Amendment is a stronger barrier to confiscation than the Second. Even if Obama appoints as US Attorney General a vehemently anti-gun personality such as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich or, God help us, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, I suspect that the same Supreme Court of the United States that recently gave us the landmark Heller decision would follow the law, which means, our side would win.
Yes, anti-gun Supreme Court nominees will be put forward by an Obama White House, but let’s remember that most of the aging Justices due to be replaced are among the four who dissented in Heller, not from the five who concurred in the armed citizenry’s victorious Heller majority. (The new President’s ability to appoint Federal judges at a lower but still lofty level is something more important to worry about right now, IMHO.)
At the ground level, I see two strong barriers to enforcement of an unconstitutional confiscation order. At the executive level, CLEOs (Chief Law Enforcement Officers) do not like being sued. They will run such an order by their city attorney/county attorney/state attorney general before ordering enforcement. And I suspect those wise lawyers will, for the most part, say, “Don’t do it yet! Look how the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association humiliated the New Orleans Police Department with court decisions after the Hurricane Katrina situation, and forced the confiscated guns to be given back! The precedents are against you and your officers…and, Chief, you are personally in the line of vicarious liability from such lawsuits! Wait until it’s sorted out by the higher court(s)!”
The other barrier at the ground level, I predict, would come from the street cops themselves, through their unions and fraternal organizations. “We all remember what happened in Waco and Ruby Ridge, and how the lawmen who did what they were ordered to do got dumped on. And now, you want us to do that, to the power of ten? Gonna ask our own brother and sister officers to take souvenir military rifles from their own parents and grandparents, and shoot them if they don’t turn them over? Naw…we, the police labor organizations, are filing suit to keep our officers from being ordered to carry out what appears to be an illegal, unconstitutional order.”
Long answer to a short question, Long Island Mike, but that’s what I believe would really happen in that scenario.