EDITORIAL: Gays but not guns

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The Senate took further moves last night toward the expected confirmation of Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. This is a key but little-known position that sets governmentwide standards for bureaucratic rule-making. The senators ought to slow down.

Mr. Sunstein persuaded Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, to remove his hold on the nomination by assuring the senator, “I strongly believe that the Second Amendment creates an individual right to possess and use guns for purposes of both hunting and self-defense.” The nominee’s record shows how far afield he has wandered from those assurances.

In a videotape of a 2007 lecture at the University of Chicago, Mr. Sunstein makes statements that are breathtaking in their willful misreading of the U.S. Constitution and American history. Regarding the traditional understanding that gun ownership is an individual right, rather than a collective one tied to organized militias, he said the theory merely “purports to be an effort to recover the original understanding, but it has much more in common with the gay rights movement in constitutional law than it does with Madisonianism. And the irony of it is that the gay rights movement has a quite insistent moral principle which, whether or not it’s entitled to ultimate acceptance, has a claim on our attention, given the arc of constitutional law over generations. The movement for a strong individual right under the Second Amendment can’t claim quite the pedigree that the gay rights claims do.”

That’s just weird. The idea of special constitutional protections for homosexuals came into vogue recently. Individual gun rights have been asserted since before this nation’s founding. Claiming that the “pedigree” of “gay rights” is greater than that of individual gun rights exposes an innate hostility to the Second Amendment. The position also calls into question the honesty of Mr. Sunstein’s recent pronouncements to skeptical senators.

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