That South Dakota Gun Mandate

The recent bill that would compel every South Dakota resident to buy a firearm has created quite a stir.  And since the piece I recently wrote on the subject evoked some fairly strong emotional responses, I want to clarify a few matters.

Some respondents assumed that my article reflected a negative attitude toward guns, but nothing could be further from the Truth.  I not only believe that every good man in America should own at least one firearm, I think that every time gun manufacturers are targeted by Bloombergettes with lawsuits or legislation, we should buy another firearm to support Smith, Wesson and the rest of our friends.  My motto is, the pen is mightier than the sword...but not the AR-15.   

Then there were respondents who viewed my statement that states may lawfully compel citizens to buy firearms as advocacy of such coercion.  This is also an incorrect interpretation.  Let's discuss the correct one.

First we need a little background.  The SD bill was created as a protest, to illustrate the injustice of ObamaScare's health-insurance mandate.  The idea is that if leftists wouldn't like government to compel them to buy something they don't want, why are they compelling their fellow man to buy something he doesn't want?  And this is fine if you make clear that you are making this, and only this, libertarian moral argument.  But it serves to reinforce a dangerous misconception if observers are left with the impression that there is also legal equivalence between these two mandates, one state and one federal.

In the healthcare debate, this misconception becomes apparent when the left uses state-mandated car insurance as a precedent for federally-mandated health insurance, which isn't just mixing apples and oranges.  It's mixing a national apple supplier with a local orange seller. 

Now, this mistake is partially the result of not separating two matters when evaluating a law: That of whether it's constitutional and that of whether it's a good idea (the practical or moral dimension).  And note that something can be a good idea but unconstitutional or constitutional but a bad idea.  Now, if I point out that a proposal is constitutional, it isn't synonymous with advocacy.  And when people assume the latter and take exception to it, they err.  We must always, always, always be clear on what the Constitution says -- even if it is our own ox being gored. 

When considering this, realize that constitutional government is no guarantee of good government.  It only ensures that the government will act in accordance with the constitution in question.  And do you know what this means when that happens to be the US Constitution?

That states are still allowed to do a multitude of stupid things.

This is why the people must take great care when molding their state constitutions.

So I have no problem with gun ownership.  I don't even much care about the SD gun-ownership bill.  But I have a big problem with the implication that there is any kind of legal equivalence between it and ObamaScare.  In compelling every resident to buy a gun, SD would be acting within the bounds of the Constitution (whether wisely or not is irrelevant to this point).  But when putting a gun to our heads and forcing us to buy health insurance, the feds are exceeding those bounds.

Legally speaking, if we want to compare the SD bill and car insurance to a socialized medicine scheme, we should choose RomneyCare in Massachusetts.  They are all constitutional.  And practically speaking, if we want to compare ObamaScare to a state mandate, we should also choose RomneyCare.  They are both bad ideas.

Contact Selwyn Duke



The recent bill that would compel every South Dakota resident to buy a firearm has created quite a stir.  And since the piece I recently wrote on the subject evoked some fairly strong emotional responses, I want to clarify a few matters.

Some respondents assumed that my article reflected a negative attitude toward guns, but nothing could be further from the Truth.  I not only believe that every good man in America should own at least one firearm, I think that every time gun manufacturers are targeted by Bloombergettes with lawsuits or legislation, we should buy another firearm to support Smith, Wesson and the rest of our friends.  My motto is, the pen is mightier than the sword...but not the AR-15.   

Then there were respondents who viewed my statement that states may lawfully compel citizens to buy firearms as advocacy of such coercion.  This is also an incorrect interpretation.  Let's discuss the correct one.

First we need a little background.  The SD bill was created as a protest, to illustrate the injustice of ObamaScare's health-insurance mandate.  The idea is that if leftists wouldn't like government to compel them to buy something they don't want, why are they compelling their fellow man to buy something he doesn't want?  And this is fine if you make clear that you are making this, and only this, libertarian moral argument.  But it serves to reinforce a dangerous misconception if observers are left with the impression that there is also legal equivalence between these two mandates, one state and one federal.

In the healthcare debate, this misconception becomes apparent when the left uses state-mandated car insurance as a precedent for federally-mandated health insurance, which isn't just mixing apples and oranges.  It's mixing a national apple supplier with a local orange seller. 

Now, this mistake is partially the result of not separating two matters when evaluating a law: That of whether it's constitutional and that of whether it's a good idea (the practical or moral dimension).  And note that something can be a good idea but unconstitutional or constitutional but a bad idea.  Now, if I point out that a proposal is constitutional, it isn't synonymous with advocacy.  And when people assume the latter and take exception to it, they err.  We must always, always, always be clear on what the Constitution says -- even if it is our own ox being gored. 

When considering this, realize that constitutional government is no guarantee of good government.  It only ensures that the government will act in accordance with the constitution in question.  And do you know what this means when that happens to be the US Constitution?

That states are still allowed to do a multitude of stupid things.

This is why the people must take great care when molding their state constitutions.

So I have no problem with gun ownership.  I don't even much care about the SD gun-ownership bill.  But I have a big problem with the implication that there is any kind of legal equivalence between it and ObamaScare.  In compelling every resident to buy a gun, SD would be acting within the bounds of the Constitution (whether wisely or not is irrelevant to this point).  But when putting a gun to our heads and forcing us to buy health insurance, the feds are exceeding those bounds.

Legally speaking, if we want to compare the SD bill and car insurance to a socialized medicine scheme, we should choose RomneyCare in Massachusetts.  They are all constitutional.  And practically speaking, if we want to compare ObamaScare to a state mandate, we should also choose RomneyCare.  They are both bad ideas.

Contact Selwyn Duke



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