On Saturday, the Independence Institute held its 6th annual Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms party. We shot sporting clays in the morning, and then ate, smoked, and drank in the afternoon. Fred Barnes (of the Weekly Standard) and Jonathan Hoenig (financial journalist for Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and others) were the guest speakers. If you missed the event, you can view pictures at the Independence Institute website, coverage (with a slideshow) at Face the State (a right-wing Colorado news website), coverage with a slideshow and a soundtrack at the Colorado Independent (a left-wing Colorado news website), and in Westword (the Denver metro area's weekly alternative and entertainment newspaper).
If you would be interested in listening to radio replays or other audio podcasts of my analysis of Heller, there are plethora of links on my home page. 12 Comments
In a New York Sun op-ed titled "Heller's Kitchen," I examine the potential effect of Heller on New York City gun laws. I hope that a re-invigorated Second Amendment will have much broader effects than the ones I wrote about, but I think that the items I wrote about (air gun ban, part of the magazine ban, carry licensing) are the New York City laws which are almost certainly indefensible if New York City is legally required to comply with the right to keep and bear arms. 30 Comments
After the D.C. city council banned handguns in 1976, and the voters of Massachusetts overwhelmingly rejected a handgun ban initiative that same year, the next U.S. jurisdiction to enact a handgun ban was the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove, in 1981. Chicago did the same in 1982, and four other Chicago suburbs, including Wilmette, later followed suit.
The Mayor of Morton Grove has announced that he will propose repeal of the handgun ban. [Note that the linked NPR story misspells the name of Second Amendment attorney Stephen Halbrook.] Wilmette, meanwhile, has suspended enforcement of its handgun ban. [HT Snowflakes in Hell.]
Both Morton Grove and Wilmette were among the cities sued on Friday by the NRA. Their decisions are sensible. While the issue of Second Amendment incorporation is still unresolved, Richard Daley's government in Chicago can spend its own funds to fight the issue all the way to the Supreme Court. If Daley wins, the suburbs can re-institute their bans. If Daley loses (an outcome that seems more likely than not if the Supreme Court takes the case), then Wilmette and Morton Grove have saved themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars of attorneys fees, since they would have to pay their own lawyers, and have to pay the plaintiffs' lawyers for bringing a successful civil rights claim.
Morton Grove was the site of perhaps the worst legal defeat for the Second Amendment in American history. The lawsuit against the ban lost 2-1 in the Seventh Circuit, and then 4-3 in the Illinois Supreme Court (notwithstanding specific legislative history from the 1966 Illinois constitutional convention that the right to arms provision would prevent handgun bans). The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in the federal case. Attorneys Stephen Halbrook and Don Kates were closely involved in the Morton Grove litigation.
In Heller, the Morton Grove cases were the strongest precedents which plainly supported the constitutionality of a complete handgun ban, even under an individual right to arms.
Ironically, Morton Grove proved very helpful to pro-Second Amendment forces in other states. The case received much national attention, and Morton Grove's ban was the key example used by NRA lobbyists to promote state preemption laws all over the country in the 1980s. These state laws eliminated or restricted many local gun controls, and always outlawed local handgun bans. The preemption laws were important in stopping the spread of local handgun prohibition. As a result, when the time came for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Heller, handgun bans remained freakish exceptions to the national norm.
It is very pleasing to see constitutional rights being re-established in the site of one of their most notorious defeats. 27 Comments
Justice Stevens' dissent in Heller begins by acknowledging that the Second Amendment protects an individual right. The rest of the dissent critiques Justice Scalia's arguments for construing the individual right according to the Standard Model of the Second Amendment. I have not yet studied the Stevens dissent in depth, but on my initial read, I was confused as what exactly is the scope of the individual right that Justice Stevens thinks the Second Amendment does protect?
The Brady Center's amicus brief did present a coherent description of a very narrow individual right protected by the Second Amendment. For the D.C. brief, in contrast, it was hard to figure out what the D.C. lawyers thought the Second Amendment did mean.
I think that one of the greatest weakness of the alternatives (narrow individual right, collective right, states' right) to the Standard Model has been that the non-Standard proponents have had a difficult time articulating what their theories mean, and an even more difficult time explaining how their theories might be applied. In my own view, the reason for the weakness of the alternative theories is that they are not really alternative theories at all; they have just been a continuing repackaging of efforts to deny the validity of the Standard Model.
So I encourage commenters who have had the time to study the Stevens dissent carefully to describe the individual right that the Stevens version of the Second Amendment would protect. Further, if the Stevens individual right model were correct, what would be the practical applications of that right? 97 Comments
Miller, Colt 45s, and Natural Law. Scotusblog. This article for the "Heller Discussion Board" provides a brief overview of Brian Frye's excellent article on Miller, which was cited by Justice Scalia. Next, the article says that DC's ban on all self-loading rifles and handguns is almost certainly unconstitutional under the Heller test. Finally, the article discusses the presence of natural law in the Heller opinion, and suggests that the strong judicial affirmation of the natural law right of self-defense may, in the long run, have significant global effects.
Over at ReasonOnline, I argue against the complaints of libertarians who complain that Heller did not go far enough. I analogize Heller to the initial Supreme Court decisions in the 1930s which began to enforce Equal Protection and the First Amendment. It would be unrealistic to expect a 1934 court to enforce those rights in a maximalist way, without the foundation of decades of doctrinal development. The same point applies to the Court's new jurisprudence of Second Amendment enforcement.
Conservative Activists Key to DC Handgun Decision is my article for Human Events. This article is not about EJ Dionne's unfounded complaints about "judicial activism." It's about the influence of citizen activists who made helped ensure that handgun prohibition remained rare in the U.S., and that a sufficient number of Supreme Court Justices were appointed by Presidents who agreed with the Standard Model of the Second Amendment. 8 Comments
Due to server problems, I haven't been able to log in to post anything until moments ago. My initial impressions on the Heller decisions and its implications are here, in a Pajamas Media article. I also did a 14-minute podcast about Heller on iVoices.org. Tomorrow I'll have a piece on the Human Events website looking at some of the political background for the case. Later today, I'll be writing a short item for Reason's Hit & Run weblog and something longer for Scotusblog.
It is a great honor to be part of the VC, whose thoughtful analysis of the opinion today has been the best in the world. As readers of Heller already know, Eugene Volokh is cited thrice in the majority opinion--and the Second Amendment isn't even his main area of scholarly research. Kudos also to Jim Lindgren, whose Yale Law Journal article demolished the Michael Bellesiles fraud book Arming America, a book which, if the fraud had not been exposed, might have gravely misled the historically-minded Court.
Finally, for those of you are counting VC cites, my brief for a law enforcement coalition International Law Enforcement Educators & Trainers Association (ILEETA) is cited four times in Justice Breyer's dissent, as part of his presentation of the pro/con data on handguns. 5 Comments
A Dutch court is currently considering whether the United Nations and the government of the Netherlands are immune from a suit brought by families of some of the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. At Sbrenica, Dutch forces, operating as UN "peacekeepers" lured Bosniacs into areas which were claimed to be safe havens, disarmed the Bosniacs, and promised that the UN peacekeepers would protect the disarmed Bosniacs. When Serbs attacked, the Dutch peacekeepers (unlike peacekeepers guarding some other safe havens) fled, leaving the Bosniacs to be murdered.
In a 2003 article for National Review Online, Paul Gallant, Joanne Eisen, and I made an argument that the UN should be considered complicit in the massacre. The article did not examine the legal arguments for or against the UN or the Dutch government having legal immunity from a civil suit, or from any other legal remedy. Comments from VC readers who can provide information on the particular issues before the Dutch court regarding civil immunity would be especially welcome. 43 Comments
[David Kopel, June 14, 2008 at 11:52am] Trackbacks
That's the topic of an excellent analysis by Prof. Michael O'Shea, of the Oklahoma City University School of Law. Professor O'Shea and I will both be contributing articles to forthcoming symposium on Heller in the Syracuse Law Review. 0 Comments
[David Kopel, June 13, 2008 at 10:59am] Trackbacks
The Irish Times reports that the Lisbon Treaty has been defeated in a referendum held in the Republic of Ireland. The Lisbon Treaty is a new version of the proposed EU Constitution, which had previously been rejected by the voters of the France and the Netherlands. This time, the French and Dutch governments refused to allow a popular vote. In the U.K., the Labour Party had promised a referendum, but that promise was broken. Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing explained: "Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly... All the earlier [EU Constitution] proposals will be in the new text [Lisbon Treaty], but will be hidden and disguised in some way."
Treaty proponents lamented that Ireland, with only 1% of the EU population, could derail a 27-nation treaty. But the very fact that only 1% of the EU's population was allowed to vote on a treaty which would massively reduce national sovereignty and democratic accountability was itself an illustration of the enormous "democratic deficit" of the EU in general, and the Lisbon Treaty in particular. According to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Lisbon Treaty would be defeated in every EU nation if referenda were allowed.
The referendum debate in Ireland involved some Irish-specific issues, such as the Treaty's impact on farmers, its threat to Ireland's official foreign policy of neutrality, and the danger that Ireland might be forced to raise its low corporate income tax rate of 12.5% (which almost everyone agrees has been an essential part of the economic success of the Celtic Tiger). But the broader opposition seemed to stem from the sheer incomprehensibility of the Treaty. Even Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen admitted that he had not read the Treaty, which is over 400 pages long and deliberately written to be obscure. Treaty proponents included both of the two largest political parties (Fianna Fail and Fine Gael), and they appealed to the Irish people's strong support of trade with Europe, and to Ireland's optimistically internationalist orientation.
A group named Libertas was formed to lead the opposition, and Libertas agreed with the principles of international trade and Ireland's integration into Europe. But Libertas was successful at convincing Irish voters that the Treaty was perilous threat to the democratic sovereignty which is the glory of European civilization, and for which the Irish had struggled for so many centuries to win for themselves.
More coverage at the excellent British site EU Referendum (which astute readers may remember for its outstanding work in exposing media complicity in cooperating with Hezbollah to create staged pictures of the alleged Israeli atrocities at Qana, Lebanon). 61 Comments
The Brady Campaign's preemptive announcement of defeat in District of Columbia v. Heller contains an interesting bit of spin:
But given that McCain stood by his support for closing "the gun-show loophole" during a recent speech to the N.R.A., the Brady Campaign president hopes that new gun restrictions can make headway regardless of who wins in November.Plus ca "change," plus c'est la meme chose. In 2000, the NRA endorsed Texas Governor George W. Bush, who supported a similar provision regarding gun shows. Accordingly, the NRA's endorsement of McCain is not good evidence that gun control is more popular in 2008 than it was in 2000. Related Posts (on one page):
"For John McCain to be the political candidate of the NRA shows how things have changed," Helmke said.
Recently the Denver Post published a searchable database of all state employees in Colorado. (The salary database is part of the Post's on-line Data Center, which publishes a wide variety of useful data.) The database provides the name and the job title of each employee. It does not include home or work addresses, social security numbers, or state employee ID numbers. In response to strong objections from advocates for victims of domestic violence, and other objections related to employee safety, the Post stated that newspapers in other states had published similar databases, and there had never been any safety or violence problems as a result. So here is my bleg: Do VC readers know of any safety of violence problems that have resulted from the publication of a person's name in an on-line database when: 1. the published information was already a public record (but was not previously available on-line), AND the publication did not disclose the person's address? 90 Comments [David Kopel, June 3, 2008 at 12:46am] Trackbacks
Do any readers have a cite for Rebecca Peters, the head of the international gun prohibition lobby IANSA, calling for drug testing of gun owners? Any cites for politicians or other prominent gun control advocates making similar calls? 6 Comments [David Kopel, May 27, 2008 at 1:09pm] Trackbacks
A five minute YouTube production from the Independence Institute features an interview with persecuted Ethiopian journalist and cyberactivist Habtamu Dugo, as well as photographs from Ethiopia shot by Mr. Dugo. 1 Comments
On Tuesday, the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed a bill authorizing Sherman Act enforcement against OPEC. Among the proponents of the idea is The Heritage Foundation. A radio report which includes my take on the issue is available in MP3 and transcript. However, it's in Russian, for the Russian station of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and may be difficult for non-Russophones to follow.
My basic analysis is: OPEC's actions are plainly contrary to the Sherman Act. In Hartford Fire Insurance Co. v. California(1993), the Supreme Court ruled that the Sherman Act could be applied to the acts of foreign corporations committed in foreign countries, if the purpose and effect the foreign acts was in part aimed at the U.S., which OPEC's actions obviously are. So even without the explicit language in the House bill, the Sherman Act allows anti-OPEC lawsuits. (And, notably, the Sherman Act, as amended by the Clayton Act, is much friendlier to civil enforcement by private parties than are the antitrust laws of most other nations.) Accordingly, the real barrier to an anti-OPEC Sherman case is the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act. Indeed, in 1978 the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers brought a Sherman Act case against OPEC, only to lose the case on FSIA grounds. So the House bill creates an exception to FSIA for anti-OPEC suits.
Although I am in general an antitrust skeptic, my objections do not apply when governments are the monopolists.
Still, my view is that there are more important steps that the U.S. could take to reduce its dependence on OPEC, such as opening up ANWR, building more nuclear and clean coal plants (even though OPEC oil is a small part of US electricity production), importing more oil from Alberta, and allowing the current high prices of gasoline to encourage market solutions for less use of OPEC gasoline. 113 Comments
[David Kopel, May 20, 2008 at 5:50pm] Trackbacks
By expressing a readiness to meet with Cuba's Raul Castro, and also to meet with personally with the heads of Iran, Syria, and North Korea, Senator Obama seems to be promising that one of the changes his Presidency would bring is a greater willingness to engage in person with controversial foreign heads of state. Accordingly, there is another head of state with whom Obama should also promise to be willing to meet in person: Taiwan's new President Ma Ying-Jeou. Inaugurated on May 20 as Taiwan's democratically-elected President, Ma is a Harvard Law School graduate who speaks excellent English. Unlike some of the other foreign leaders whom Obama has said he would meet, Ma won a legitimate, free election, is very friendly towards the United States, is not working on a nuclear weapons program, does not militarily threaten the U.S. or its allies, and does not sponsor international terrorism. A fortiori, the case for a meeting with Ma is much stronger than the case for a meeting with Castro et al.
Ever since the Carter administration broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the U.S. State Department has imposed a policy against personal meetings (or even phone calls!) between high-ranking officials of the United States and Taiwan. As detailed in an American Enterprise Institute report, the State Department's ban on direct high-level U.S.-Taiwan contacts interferes with effective U.S. policy towards Taiwan, and leads to unnecessary misunderstandings.
An Obama-Ma meeting would infuriate the Chinese Communist dictatorship. However, such a meeting might help allay concerns that President Obama would be easily coerced by dictatorships, or that he might be weak in supporting U.S. allies. In any case, given that Obama has answered whether he would be willing to meet with Raul Castro, it would be reasonable for him to state whether he will meet with Ma Ying-Jeou. 42 Comments
A few weeks ago, Ethiopian journalist Habtamu Dugo was a guest at the Independence Institute. I interviewed him for a podcast about Internet censorship in Ethiopia. My Independence Institute colleague Mike Krause interviewed him about China's pernicious anti-freedom influence in Africa. And here's the 27-minute video of a wide-ranging interview I conducted with Mr. Dugo for KBDI public television in Denver (for the program "Independent Thinking").
More Independence Institute videos are on our MySpaceTV webpage, and more audio podcasts are at iVoices.org. 0 Comments
In a Thursday article for Town Hall, titled "Gun Owners for Hillary?", I examine Senator Clinton's success in winning gun-owner votes in the recent Democratic primaries. Susan Faludi's op-ed in the New York Times examines some of the changes in Mrs. Clinton's style which have made her more attractive to white males; my guess is that these changes are also particularly appealing to gun owners, who tend to place a high value on self-reliance and grit. 53 Comments
[David Kopel, May 5, 2008 at 11:19am] Trackbacks
a. The single most important development in firearms technology.
b. The single most important development in personal defense technology, at least for a small person's ability to defend herself against a group of larger assailants."
Agree or disagree with item a or item b, or both. If you disagree, please cite specific examples of more important development(s), and why you believe they are more important.
Impressively erudite answers in the comments! For further refinement:
For a., only consider firearms, not ammunition. This eliminates the (persuasive) argument in favor of the breech-loading metallic cartridge. It leaves an argument in favor of the machine gun--although one could counter-argue that the Gatling Gun was just a very sophisticated extrapolation of the revolver. To which one could sur-reply that the Gatling didn't change things all that much, in practice, but the Maxim Gun did, and the Maxim was in no way derivative of the revolver.
On b., only consider weapons, and not other technologies (such as telephones). 62 Comments
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, in an April 26 interview in the Financial Times, urged Western patience with China's oppression of Tibet. Rogge stated that the People's Republic of China has existed since 1949, and he noted that European colonial powers abused their colonies for a long time. He concluded: "we owe China to give them time."
Does anyone know a good source for the lengths of European colonialism on a colony-by-colony basis? Some colonial periods (e.g., Portugal's rule of Angola) were very long, while others (some of the latter European conquests in Africa) were not much longer than the nearly six decades that Rogge imputes to the PRC's colonial rule of Tibet.
I realize that one could argue about whether Rogge is correct in dating Chinese colonialism only to the time when the current regime came to power. The French government went through a complete regime change as a result of the French revolution; would French colonial masters in 1791 then be entitled to tell their colonial victims: "Please be patient with us; our regime has existed for only two years. Never mind that the previous French government put you under the French colonial thumb decades ago."
But let's just use Rogge's timeline. The Tibetans, Uighers, and Inner Mongolians have lived under PRC colonialism for nearly six decades. How long does this compare to the period of European rule of various colonies, as well as to the length of Russian/Soviet rule for the various captive nations which were part of Imperial Russia and the USSR? 37 Comments
A left/right convergence in support of a reprehensible idea. At least that's my analysis, in my media column for today's Rocky Mountain News/Denver Post. 26 Comments
Almost as soon as Air America stopped carrying Randi Rhodes, Clear Channel picked up her program. In my column for today's Rocky Mountain News, I bemoan the fact that she attracts a much larger audience than did thoughtful radio hosts such as Gary Hart and Mario Cuomo. 63 Comments
Notwithstanding Tuzla-gate and all the other problems that the Hillary Clinton campaign has faced, I think that that the extended primary campaign is making Senator Clinton into a stronger, more appealing candidate.
Not unlike John McCain, she is more likeable as a scrappy fighter against a wealthier opponent than she is as the front-runner. Similarly, she is demonstrating toughness, resilience, and ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances--good traits for a commander in chief.
Now, with bitter-gate dominating the political news, Senator Clinton has found perfect pitch. Check out this video of her speech in Valparaiso, Indiana. If the spirits of Franklin Roosevelt or Hubert Humphrey were brought back to earth, and didn't know any of the facts of the 2008 campaign, and were allowed to watch Senator Clinton's Valparaiso speech, I suggest that they would exclaim, "That's my kind of Democrat!" The politics of can-do optimism and not of bitterness; appreciation for the religious character of small-town America; affirmation of the Second Amendment and the rite of passing the tradition of responsible participation in the shooting sports from one generation to the next.
Yes, I know that Senator Clinton's prior record is not exactly consistent with her Valparaiso speech, particularly in regard to Second Amendment issues.
Still...every good American should want both of our major political parties to be patriotic parties: to believe that in every year of American history, there have been many reasons to be proud of America, notwithstanding its flaws; to believe that Americans are the masters of their fate and not the victims of economic determinism; and to see the American people not as "bitter" or "mean" but as hard-working, decent, and good.
Even if you believe Senator Clinton's speech entirely hypocritical (I consider it to be partially but not entirely so), "hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue." Senator Clinton's Valparaiso speech moves the party a step closer to its virtuous traditions.
The Real Clear Politics polling averages already suggest that if the election were held today, Senator Clinton would beat Senator McCain in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and that Senator Obama would lose both of those states to Senator McCain. You've got to go back to 1960 to find a candidate who won the general election while losing Ohio, and in 2008 it would be very tough to defeat a candidate who won both Ohio and Pennsylvania. Senator Clinton is effectively using bitter-gate not only to improve her already-solid chances of winning the Pennsylvania primary, but to strengthen her general election message as a traditional Democrat who embraces the best of America's past, present, and future. 102 Comments
[David Kopel, April 8, 2008 at 3:29am] Trackbacks
Christopher Hitchens' latest column in Slate states: "In April 2004, Barack Obama told a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times that he had three spiritual mentors or counselors: Jeremiah Wright, James Meeks, and Father Michael Pfleger--for a change of pace, a white Catholic preacher who has a close personal feeling for the man he calls (as does Obama) Minister Farrakhan."
Pfleger is the Pastor at St. Sabina's Catholic Church, on the South Side of Chicago. So I searched Westlaw's ALLNEWS database for "Obama and Pfleger."
According to the April 5, 2004 Chicago Sun-Times article cited by Hitchens:
Friends and advisers, such as the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church in the Auburn--Gresham community on the South Side, who has known Obama for the better part of 20 years, help him keep that compass set, he says.As Hitchens wrote, Rev. Pfleger is indeed an admirer of "Minister Farrakhan." Ambushed by a Bill O'Reilly camera crew, Pfleger stated: "He has--first of all, he has not called Judaism a gutter religion of blood suckers. That is not what he has said because I have heard that talk. I stick up for Louis Farrakhan because he is another person that the media has chosen to define how they want to do it. And they demonize how they want to demonize somebody. I know the man, Louis Farrakhan. He is a great man. I have great respect for him, ho has done an awful lot for people and this country, black, white, and brown. He's a friend of mine." (The O'Reilly Factor, Apr. 3, 2008.) Farrakhan spoke at St. Sabina's on May 25, 2007. (Chicago Sun Times, May 10, 2007.)
"I always have felt in him this consciousness that, at the end of the day, with all of us, you've got to face God," Pfleger says of Obama. "Faith is key to his life, no question about it. [It is] central to who he is, and not just in his work in the political field, but as a man, as a black man, as a husband, as a father.... I don't think he could easily divorce his faith from who he is."
Like Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was recently an invited speaker at Rev. Pfleger's church, Rev. Pfleger believes that "racism is still America's greatest addiction." (Chicago Sun Times, Jan. 17, 2004.)
In September 2007 in Iowa, Pfleger participated in forums on the role of spirituality in politics, which the Obama campaign had organized. (US Federal News, Oct. 1 & 14, 2007; Chicago Sun Times, Sept. 12, 2007). The Obama campaign touted Pfleger's endorsement, listing him as one of about a dozen prominent ministers who supported Obama. (Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 8, 2007.)
As a state legislator, Obama obtained $225,000 in grants for St. Sabina. (Chicago Tribune, May 2, 2007.)
Rev. Pfleger was a prominent early endorser of Obama's successful 2004 Senate campaign, as well as his unsuccessful 2000 challenge to U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.
Rev. Pfleger's church has taken some admirable stands against the degradation of American culture, such as speaking out against abusive rap music, and hosting a speaker who exposed the anti-Catholic compilation of lies in "The DaVinci Code." (Chicago Defender, May 15, 2006.) St. Sabina also organized a rally against the genocide in Darfur. (Chicago Sun Times, May 19, 2005.) Rev. Pfleger appeared at a press conference to support state legislator Obama's bill requiring the police to keep statistics on the race of motorists who were stopped by the police, so as to deter racial profiling. (Chicago Defender, Feb. 20, 2001.)
Rev. Pfleger also appeared at a press conference announcing State Senator Obama's proposal to outlaw the sale of bidi cigarettes--a type of high-nicotine hand-rolled cigarette which is made in India. (Chicago Defender, Feb. 5, 2000.)
Rev. Pfleger does not respect the property rights of persons who sell products he does not like. He "is known for climbing ladders to deface liquor billboards." (Crain's Chicago Business, Dec. 20, 2004.)
The Westlaw database does not indicate that Sen. Obama has participated in the project which has gained Rev. Pfleger notoriety among Bill of Rights advocates: his persecution of Chuck's Gun Shop. Since all firearms stores have been driven out of Chicago, the closest firearms store to Chicago is Chuck's Gun Shop, in Riverdale, a short distance south of Chicago. Pursuant to Illinois law, Chuck's only sells guns to customers who have already obtained a Firearms Owner's Identification Card (FOID) issued by the Illinois State Police after a background check. The employees of Chuck's Gun Shop have also voluntarily undertaken the "Don't lie for the other guy" training program sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, to help gun store employees detect straw purchases (purchases by legal buyers conducted on behalf of prohibited persons).
Yet the Reverends Michael Pfleger and Jesse Jackson have been organized large crowds to repeatedly picket Chuck's Gun Shop. On June 23, 2007, Revs. Jackson and Pfleger were arrested for criminally obstructing the entrance to the store. The charges were eventually dropped, just as Governor George Wallace never was criminally punished for standing in a doorway to obstruct the exercise of constitutional rights. (The comparison is a little unfair, since Wallace eventually stood aside, whereas Jackson and Pfleger had to be physically removed by the police.)
In another demonstration at Chuck's Gun Shop, owned by John Riggio, Rev. Pfleger told the crowd: "We're going to find you and snuff you out....Like a rat you're going to hide. But like a rat, we're going to catch you and pull you out....We're going to snuff out John Riggio." Rev. Pfleger also promised: "We're going to snuff out legislators that are voting against our gun laws. We're coming for you because we're not going to sit idly."
Rev. Pfleger later denied that his words had been meant to invoke violence, or that he had known that "snuff out" means to "kill." Rather, the determination to "snuff out" Riggio was a determination to find out his home address, which was not publically available.
According to Roget's Thesaurus, "snuff out" means "kill" and is similar to the following words: "blow away, bump off, chill, dispatch, dispose of, do away with, do in, dust, grease, hit, ice, knock off, murder, off, rub out, stretch out, waste, wax, whack, zap." In response to Rev. Pfleger's words, Cardinal Francis George, of the Archdiocese of Chicago, stated: "Publicly delivering a threat against anyone's life betrays the civil order and is morally outrageous, especially if this threat came from a priest." (Chicago Sun Times, June 8, 2007.)
Rev. Pfleger proclaimed that the protests would continue (and that he would refuse to pay a fee imposed by a city ordinance to pay for the police services necessitated by the picketing) until the Riverdale city council decides to eliminate all gun stores, and "vote Riverdale gun-free." Or as Rev. Pfleger's picketers chanted, "Vote Riverdale gun dry." (Chicago Defender, Oct. 29, 2007).
Every American voter will have to decide how much importance, if any, to give to Sen. Obama's association with Rev. Pfleger. In my own view, I give greater attention to a religious figure who is a long-standing personal advisor to a candidate than to a religious figure who is merely one of thousands of political allies whom the candidate seeks out during a campaign. In deciding how to vote, I ignore purely theological issues (e.g., whether the Mitt Romney's LDS view of the afterlife is more plausible or less plausible than John Kerry's Roman Catholic view), but I consider the extent to which the candidate's religious philosophy may (like any other part of the candidate's worldview) influence his or her public policy decisions. In my view, it is relevant that a candidate has chosen spiritual mentors who are bigots or who are hostile to constitutional rights. Senator Obama's close relationship with Rev. Pfleger makes me less confident that a President Obama would be a strong defender of the entire Bill of Rights and of civic tolerance.