Constitution, Not Crises, Should be the Foundation for Governance

“[W]e’ve got to break the habit of negotiating through crisis over and over again.”

That’s what President Obama had to say in recent remarks about whether or not he’ll negotiate with Republicans over increasing the debt limit. As with much that comes out of President Obama’s mouth, it was apparently nothing but hot air.

Just days later, in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, President Obama went back to the axiom that guided much of his first term – “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Rahm Emanuel may no longer be darkening the halls of the White House, but he nevertheless cast a long shadow over today’s remarks.

Obama didn’t introduce a slew of new gun control proposals, he used children as props to evoke sympathy for his cause. It was a ploy clearly designed to play up the unquestionably heartbreaking and horrific shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. It was political showmanship at its worst. President Obama knew he couldn’t make the political case for gun control on his own, so he enlisted a crowd of innocent kids to make the case for him.

Let’s be clear – nobody wants another Newtown. The horrifying way in which the bright futures of innocent children were snuffed out is beyond comprehension.

“Trying to climb this mountain of wickedness is like trying to climb a glass wall with your bar hands,” writes Megan McCardle. “What happened there is pure evil, and evil, unlike common badness, gives an ordinary mind no foothold.”

It was unjust, unfair, and most of all, tragic. It should stand as a call for national introspection – to study and discuss what can and should be done to address the problems of gun violence and mental health detection and treatment.

What is should not be is a tool to push an agenda. It should not be lead to views such as former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell who said, “The good thing about Newtown is, it was so horrific that I think it galvanized Americans to a point where the intensity on our side is going to match the intensity on their side.”

Newtown was in no way a “good thing.” It was a crisis that has led Obama to a hasty response. As Nick Gillespie writes for Reason,

“Once you strip away the raw emotionalism of the carnage at Sandy Hook, or the Aurora theater, or Columbine, or Luby’s, or whatever, you’re left with a series of inconvenient truths for gun-control advocates: Over the past 20 years or so, more guns are in circulation and violent crime is down. So is violent crime that uses guns. Murders are down, too, even as video games and movies and music and everything else are filled with more fantasy violence than ever. . . It’s probably always been the case but certainly since the start of the 21st century, it seems like we legislate only by crisis-mongering and the results have not been good: The Patriot Act, the Iraq War, TARP, fiscal cliff deals, you name it. Would that cooler heads prevailed then and now.”

But cooler heads haven’t prevailed. Whether it’s because he truly believes in gun control, whether he sees political opportunity, or whether he has fallen for the logical syllogism that follows these types of tragedies—something must be done, this is something, therefore this must be done—President Obama has acted.

And in doing so he’s taken a step down a worrisome path.

“This is the land of the free, and it always will be,” President Obama said in his remarks. But unlike his glib assertion, there’s no promise that it always will be. As Thomas Jefferson said, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” We must now be vigilant about ensuring a free state.

No, we’re not stockpiling water, ammunition and canned goods in preparation for the inevitable rise of the state against the people. But freedom is important. Erick Erickson breaks down the fascinating and important history of the wording of the 2nd Amendment:

The English Bill of Rights accused King James II of disarming protestants in England. That Bill of Rights included the language “That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.

The Americans, however, saw the British government, via Parliament, begin curtailing the rights of the citizenry in the American colonies. When they formed the federal government with ratification of the Constitution, the colonists, now Americans, were deeply skeptical of a concentrated federal power, let alone standing armies to exercise power on behalf of a government.

Prior to the Civil War, the Bill of Rights only applied to the federal government and that first Congress dropped references to “as allowed by Law” that had been in the English Bill of Rights. The Founders intended that Congress was to make no law curtailing the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms.

Will we, in crisis, so easily tear down the fundamental and long-held tenets of our Constitution? Do we abridge the freedoms of the law abiding in some misconceived effort to simply do something? If so, why nibble around the edges? If the constitutional right to bear arms is no longer sacrosanct then President Obama should stand up and propose to change it.