I don’t believe the families of the victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., deserve a vote.
It may sound harsh and uncaring, but even the greatest tragedies are not a valid reason to disregard the Supreme Court and the Constitution of the United States. If they were, our free speech and our rights against unreasonable search and seizure and against self-incrimination would have all been abolished long ago amid every crime wave in American history.
Five years ago, the Supreme Court settled the issue of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller, making it clear that guns in “common use” were constitutionally protected. Nevertheless, President Obama recently flew several family members of Sandy Hook victims to Washington on Air Force One to pressure congressional legislators to enact new gun laws.
The president seems intent on obsessing over an issue that has already been decided by the Supreme Court.
There’s a reason James Madison wrote the Constitution the way he did with a “Separation of Powers” doctrine. That doctrine ensures the three branches of government cannot usurp one another’s powers or responsibilities, thus creating a “checks and balances” system to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful.
In 1803, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case that most of us learned in sixth-grade social studies class Marbury v. Madison. In that case, the court established the principle of “judicial review,” which made the courts not Congress or the president the final arbitrator of the Constitution.
Congress creates laws, the president enforces laws and the courts are a check and balance to decide if those laws are constitutional. Since, under the Supremacy Clause of Article VI, the Constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” the voice of the Supreme Court is the final word on any legal issue not Congress, and certainly not the president.
It’s a relatively simple principle, but one that Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to understand or care about. He seems to think the tragic shootings of innocent people at Sandy Hook is a justifiable excuse to completely disregard the Supreme Court and the Constitution. In places such as Chicago and Washington, D.C., thousands of innocent people have also been killed during times when comprehensive firearms bans were in effect. Don’t those families deserve a vote as well?
At every possible turn, the president has exploited the Sandy Hook tragedy by riling the emotions of already distressed parents and families, giving them false hope, convincing them they deserve a vote on an issue he knows has already been settled by the Supreme Court, a vote he knows would be unconstitutional and a vote that, short of a constitutional convention to repeal the Second Amendment, would be illegal.
It would be just as unconstitutional to ask Congress to ban free speech, establish a national religion or reinstitute segregation. That’s not leadership, nor is it compassion. It’s deceitful and preys upon broken families, who are lost in grief.
The president knows there is no chance of constitutionally expanding firearms regulations beyond minor changes, such as universal background checks. If the president has any common sense, he also knows that registration laws and universal background checks will accomplish almost nothing, since they will not obstruct criminals from getting illegal guns on the black market, just as they always have.
Everything Mr. Obama is doing to lessen the criminal use of firearms is counterintuitive to what makes sense. Instead of targeting criminals with illegal firearms, the president is trying regulate law-abiding citizens who buy legal firearms. Instead of waging war against Mexican cartels for trafficking millions of illegal guns into America each year, the president is determined to launch a police war against American citizens for legally purchasing U.S.-made firearms for self-defense.
Mr. Obama is wrong to say that if we can save one child’s life, we should do “everything” we can in our power. However, abuse of power is a dangerous thing in a constitutional republic.
Mr. Obama should stop exploiting the families of crime victims just to further his unconstitutional gun-control agenda.
Despite the tragic circumstances of what happened at Sandy Hook, pain, sadness and desperation are never a reason to jeopardize freedom and liberty. The families of Sandy Hook victims deserve sympathy, but they do not deserve a vote from Congress on a matter that has already been decided by the Supreme Court. The Constitution, not compassion, must remain the currency of our country’s lawmaking process.
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C.