"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

How pure is pure enough?

carlson CHRIS


There is something gone terribly awry in our democratic system when decent hard-working legislators can be recalled simply because they are not 100% pure on any particular issue near and dear to the hearts of the world’s zealots.

That’s the only take away one can have from the recent recall in Colorado of two solid public servants who though basically supporters of the Second amendment’s qualified right of an individual to keep and bear arms, had the temerity to support something a majority of Coloradans support – namely universal background checks.

It’s the first time ever in all of Colorado’s political history that two legislators have been recalled. Sadly, the National Rifle Association is claiming credit for its role in this travesty and abuse of the recall provision, saying it illustrates once again their message of “don’t mess with me and my guns.”

The NRA would have one believe the Second amendment is an absolute unqualified right for an individual to have most any weapon he wants short of a small nuclear device to defend hearth and self. This is simply not the case.

In point of fact it wasn’t until recently that the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Heller vs. the District of Columbia, in a stunning move led by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, reversed two hundred years of settled law and affirmed the right of an individual apart from service in any sort of militia to have and bear arms.

Despite this precedent-shattering, five to four majority opinion written by Scalia, one has to wonder if Supreme Court Justices had to stand for election every so many years whether the NRA would even support him. Why?

Well even the great Scalia wrote that the Second amendment was a qualified right, not an absolute right. Near the end of his opinion he wrote these qualifiers:

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…..Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

What is a law requiring universal background checks if not a condition imposed on the commercial sale of arms? Yet it was support for this qualification as well as limiting to 15 rounds magazines for a semi-automatic firearm that incurred the ire of the NRA and led to the recall of these two Colorado legislators.

We elect legislators to use their best judgment in passing laws that reflect the greatest good for the greatest number. If they go too far astray, or get too arrogant there is a process called a term of office whereby they have to stand for re-election and we can then pass judgment on their service. Recalls are meant to be utilized as a safety valve when there is egregious abuse of office – such as a legislator committing a felony, taking a bribe or selling his or her vote. It then becomes necessary to remove them from office before the normal standing for re-election.

If litmus test 100% purity on any single issue becomes a standard for by which citizenry can remove a legislator we all lose for what will then have is nothing but a set of automatons who will ask their constituents to vote on every issue that comes before them. We no longer will be a representative democracy and a republic which chooses a few to sift and weigh the many complex issues and decide the public interest.

Think about it. Even Justice Scalia would not be pure enough for the purists within the NRA who view the Second amendment as an absolute right instead of a qualified right with attached responsibilities to apply and use common sense.

Fortunately, Idaho’s recall provisions are much stricter than Colorado’s. What happened there was a true abuse of the provision and a travesty of simple fairness and justice. My sympathy to the two public servants crucified by purists because they were not pure enough on one issue.

Share on Facebook

One Comment

  1. Drake_Burrwood said:

    “What is a law requiring universal background checks if not a condition imposed on the commercial sale of arms?”

    There is already a law requiring commercial background checks; since commercial dealers are required to have a licence, and required to jump through a bunch of hoops including calling the feds for “the check”..

    What kind of world do you want to live in the one of old where persons bought guns in catalogs, and wouldn’t be caught DEAD shooting up a school. Or this one.

    October 4, 2013

Comments are closed.