We are a nation conceived in liberty, or so our self-understanding has always been. If one looks at our history, it has by and large been one of expanding the freedom of individuals and groups. Our darkest moments as a nation have come when we have failed to protect liberty.
Now sometimes we hear proposals to curtail our liberties and restrict our rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Some even suggest violence and murder against their political opponents. But such things are outside the mainstream.
Or at least they were, until this past weekend, when one of our most respected newspapers published a column proposing precisely those things. The editors of the Des Moines Register saw fit to publish a Donald Kaul column about the Sandy Hook massacre which included these extremist demands.
Here, then, is my “madder-than-hell-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore” program for ending gun violence in America:
• Repeal the Second Amendment, the part about guns anyway. It’s badly written, confusing and more trouble than it’s worth. It offers an absolute right to gun ownership, but it puts it in the context of the need for a “well-regulated militia.” We don’t make our militia bring their own guns to battles. And surely the Founders couldn’t have envisioned weapons like those used in the Newtown shooting when they guaranteed gun rights. Owning a gun should be a privilege, not a right.
• Declare the NRA a terrorist organization and make membership illegal. Hey! We did it to the Communist Party, and the NRA has led to the deaths of more of us than American Commies ever did. (I would also raze the organization’s headquarters, clear the rubble and salt the earth, but that’s optional.) Make ownership of unlicensed assault rifles a felony. If some people refused to give up their guns, that “prying the guns from their cold, dead hands” thing works for me.
• Then I would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control.
And if that didn’t work, I’d adopt radical measures.
Let's be honest -- the first of Kaul's proposals is not all that radical. Repealing the Second Amendment is not supported by a majority of Americans and could never be accomplished, but a suggestion to follow the constitutional process to change the Constitution is not offensive. And if Kaul had stopped there, his column would not excite the passions that it has. His argument that the Founders wouldn't recognize today's guns and they are therefore not covered by the Second Amendment is absurd -- they also wouldn't recognize the internet, television, radio, or the mammoth printing presses that print the Des Moines Register's print edition, but they would undoubtedly recognize that the First Amendment encompasses them. But dumb arguments for irrelevant political ideas from out-of-touch liberals don't bother me, and I respect their right to put them out for public ridicule.
Unfortunately, though, Kaul didn't stop there.
In his second point he suggests declaring a peaceful, non-violent voluntary organization that exists to promote gun safety and lobby the government on gun laws to be a terrorist organization -- which would have the effect of subjecting its members to prison time. So much for the First Amendment in Mr. Kaul's world -- he seems to be one of those "free speech for me but not for thee" liberals we encounter all too often these days. And the falsehoods that he spewed to support this point are glaring. Yes, there were attempts to make the Communist Party illegal, but they ultimately were declared to be in violation of the same First Amendment that protests Kaul's right to urge stripping rights from his fellow Americans in Yates v. United States. Indeed, there has been a Communist Party candidate on the ballot for President in many election years -- and the Communist Party of the United States even endorsed Barack Obama in 2012.
And then there is that last proposal of Mr. Kaul's -- dragging political opponents from the back of a pickup truck. I've seen such a proposal before, from local Death Threat Democrat John Cobarruvias, and condemned him for it then. I condemn Kaul for this proposal now. After all, we know the history of dragging people behind pickup trucks, don't we?
So, Mr. Kaul -- is it really your proposal to do to elected officials what a trio of white trash racists did to James Byrd, Jr.? Are you such a degenerate as to implicitly seek the murder of those whose politics you disagree with? And to the editors of the Des Moines Register, have you and your publication suck so low and become so lacking in decency allow such advocacy in your pages? During my college years I had the privilege of knowing Clark Mollenhoff, perhaps the greatest individual to ever write for your paper. Is this truly how you honor his memory and legacy, by including such garbage in your pages?
I understand that at one time Donald Kaul was a fine columnist worthy of respect. I know that the Des Moines Register was at one time a great newspaper worthy of respect. It is sad to say that neither statement is now true -- and that they have instead become a part of the howling mob seeking to destroy our liberties and suppress those speakers with whom they disagree. The following seems an appropriate sentiment to include here.