- - Monday, September 19, 2016


Nobody does hysteria better than The New York Times, and over the years the editorial page of the old gray lady has fulminated most over the Second Amendment. The very idea of guns frightens the old gray lady beyond her feminist endurance. Last year the newspaper published a front-page editorial, a newspaper tradition usually reserved for a really, really important issue of the day, repeating a frequent demand for the severest restrictions on gun ownership. On another occasion the newspaper printed a call for establishing a secret court with the authority to put citizens on a “No Buy” list, similar to the “No Fly” list that bars passengers from airline flights on the whim of a low-level government bureaucrat without even evidence of connections to terrorists and terrorism. No guns for the law-abiding, either.

Such an infringement of the Constitution, the founding document that has fallen on hard times in the Obama era, would provide luckless citizens and their lawyers no right to see the evidence on which such drastic action was taken. Bad things are bound to happen when rights are infringed by mere fear and loathing. The late Sen. Edward Kennedy, through a dumb bureaucratic error, was once denied airline boarding rights and his office, one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill, required weeks to get the mistake corrected.

America was founded as a nation of laws, but lately there’s been a movement to transform it into a nation governed by cheap emotion and correct thought. The New York Times’ latest editorial-page tantrum, which somewhat resembles a Hillary Clinton coughing fit, was set off by the passage of a law in Missouri that enables citizens to openly arm themselves. The law, similar to legislation in most of the states, was enacted over the veto of the Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, and includes a “stand your ground” provision that preserves the right of a private citizen to defend himself against predators.

The New York Times quotes with approval a Missouri state senator from Ferguson, Mo., warning that the law would empower a “bad Samaritan” like George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood-watch officer in Sanford, Fla., who shot Trayvon Martin during a fight in which he suffered head injuries when young Martin repeatedly banged his head against a concrete sidewalk. Media pressure led to the appointment of a special prosecutor to file charges of second-degree murder against Mr. Zimmerman, a man of mixed Hispanic and African ancestry. He was tried and acquitted by a jury.

Building a case against guns, The New York Times further cites the fatal shooting in 2014 of an unarmed young black man, Michael Brown, after he tried to disarm a policeman, demonstrating that trying to take a policeman’s gun away from him is not a good idea. Black lives matter, a proposition on which we all agree, but the newspaper, like the Black Lives Matter movement, could surely find more persuasive examples of police misconduct.

Hysteria is rarely persuasive. The New York Times once argued that different towns and cities, like the state of New York or the city of New York or Chicago, should be excused from the Constitution and permitted to abridge the rights of some to satisfy others. Certain states and cities should be allowed to enact tougher restrictions on guns than, for example, Wisconsin or Montana, because big cities have different problems dealing with crime and violence. Such reasoning would astonish the Founding Fathers, but what would old dead white guys know?

Some states — New York and Maryland for example — have enacted what are called “may issue” gun laws, which require an applicant for a concealed carry permit to submit conclusive evidence that he needs to carry a gun. Other states have enacted “shall issue” gun laws, which require the state to issue the permit or say why not. Still other states have enacted gun laws enabling any law-abiding citizen to carry a concealed gun without a special permit. When Missouri followed last week, the Manhattan editorialists slipped into a frenzy of social injustice. An aspirin and a brief lie-down might have helped restore the usual calm expected in a well-ordered editorial chamber.

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