At the “urging” of ubu52 I finally decided to elaborate a bit on an edgy meme I’ve been pushing for quite some time. I’ve been saying something to the effect that people advocating for or enforcing anti-gun laws should be tried, convicted, and punished under 18 USC 241 and/or 18 USC 242. These are, essentially, laws that prohibit conspiracy to infringe the rights of others which are secured by the Constitution.
I’ve long known that those laws are not going to be enforced against anyone anytime soon. I’m pretty sure there are even some laws that give immunity to government officials under many circumstances.
I don’t care.
I’m taking a long term view of things. There have been many instances throughout history where activities that were perfectly legal or at least accepted by all “right thinking folks” became politically out of favor. Then, as long as the statute of limitations had not expired, prosecutors found pre-existing laws to enforce and punish those who engaged in the activity. The most famous example of this is probably the Nuremberg Trials.
Examples exist in our country too.
Lynching blacks 75 years ago was technically illegal but the risk of prosecution and conviction was pretty low. Decades later some of those people were convicted of murder.
The perpetrators of the internment of Japanese were never brought to justice but, decades later, payments were made to those people who were put into the camps.
Ubu52’s point in regard to people advocating for gun control is:
But they should have the freedom to do that, right? This is the USA, isn’t it? Joe is saying that they shouldn’t have the freedom to do whatever they want. I think he’s wrong.
At first glance, in this context, I’m pretty certain nearly everyone would agree with her. But, in todays context, what would be the legal response to advocating riots, lynching blacks, and assassinating politicians? Anyone doing that would be running a serious risk of prosecution if they or people they influenced began conspiring to implement some of those ideas.
The bottom line is that there are, and rightly so, limits to free speech. Those limits in general are, in our country and our time*, set at the point where someone else’s rights are in imminent danger of being violated. The classic “your right to swing your fist ends at my nose” says it more succinctly and less abstractly.
Think about that. The limits of free speech are the point at which someone else’s rights are in imminent danger of being violated.
You see where I’m going now, right?
This is a very clear logical path to prosecuting anti-gun people. Those that object to this logic either don’t regard being able to keep and bear arms as a “real right” or they are being logically inconsistent with those limits to free speech in existing law.
I’m not a lawyer but I’ve read enough court rulings to know that judges will almost always give at least lip service to logic. They may have to fabricate a logic scaffolding that only Rube Goldberg could admire but they will rule in a “logical” manner.
A logically consistent case can, and should, be made that advocating for the restriction of the right to keep and bear arms is no different than advocating for riots and lynching. People can and do die because they were denied their specific enumerated right to keep and bear arms. It is directly foreseeable that people will be injured because of people abusing their right to free speech.
The logic in my example is far, far less torturous that hundreds of court rulings. It could happen.
What I am trying to do with my “That will come up at your trial,”** quip is to change the culture such that it becomes possible to regard the deliberate infringement of other rights as a punishable offense. Yes, it’s sort of twisted in that I am advocating the restriction of one right to protect another right. It is not “twisted” in the sense that restricting the right to some sorts of speech it does not put people in danger of life or serious bodily harm such as restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms does.
Of course no judge today, or probably even ten years from now, will rule in such a manner. But I want the seeds planted. I want people to ask, “Why aren’t these people violating the law?” “Why aren’t these people being prosecuted?” I want the anti-gun people to pause and think about it.
I want to see the day, perhaps 20 years from now, when people are brought to trial for the crimes they are committing today. By the advocating the infringement of the specific enumerated right to keep and bear arms they caused the foreseeable, needless, injuries and deaths of tens of thousands and they should be brought to justice for that.
Update: L. Neil Smith points out we could, literally, have our own Nuremberg Trials in the U.S.
*Kevin links to a fascinating post which ties into this topic. It makes you think about other times and places if you are interested in a much bigger picture. For example, imagine a cultural shift where the advocating of the right to keep and bear arms is a punishable offense.
**Thanks to Sean for that line even if it was in a completely different context.