It's not about guns...

It's about citizenship

The Potowmack Institute
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Update, May 18, 2011

Gun rights and the gun vote are not about guns. They are about promoting a very malignant vision of economic, social and political life and controlling political outcomes to further that vision. See below.

The letter of May 5 cited below to Ms. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has received no response. We cannot expect leadership or consciousness out of members of Congress or from the Democratic National Committee or the Women's National Democratic Club. They cannot get beyond advocating and supporting more lame, failed, piecemeal gun control legislation. Progress will be made on fundamental civic values.

The Schultz letter with attachments was placed in the hands of Michael Blake, White House Director of African American & Minority Business Outreach in the Office of Public Engagement, at a community meeting in Washington on May 11, 2011, He said he would forward it to the Justice Department. If there as any intelligent life at the DOJ the Potowmack Institute would have no reason to exist.

What are at stake are the most vital and fundamental issues of political life. The courts have given the opportunity to define basic civic values on fundamental concepts. The challenge can go to President Obama. The gun lobby is already working up its demagogic machine for the 2012 election campaign. The argument is that the Obama Administration wants to win the election and then it will initiate its efforts to confiscate all the guns and impose tyrannical government. The 2012 campaign and not after the election is when Obama can lift public discourse above sound bite demagoguery and make an end run around the cynical efforts with an appeal to gun rights organization members. This where we become seriously political. This is where we find bold political leadership:

There is much more that could be added to the discussion. On May 15, 2011, CBS's "Sixty Minutes," hardly a credible voice, gave a segment on anti-government militants who call themselves "Sovereign Citizens". That is a contradiction in terms. Citizens consent to be governed. They accommodate to a governing authority. They give civic obligation. They surrender up, from John Locke well understood by the Founding Generation, the "executive power of the law of Nature". A sovereign gives and enforces law. A sovereign does not accommodate to a law giving authority. States are sovereign. They make treaties not governments.

This is all part of the same story. More is at
If Obama had had real political talent and if the bankrupt Democratic Party had any capacity for political leadership, Obama would have challenged McCain in the 2008 campaign on where he stood on the conclusions of the courts in the Parker/Heller cases. Was McCain going to contradict the rulings of the courts? The gun vote goes to Bob Barr and Ron Paul and is neutralized in national politics. Barr and Paul, sadly, are the only candidates who would have understood the implications of the question.

Political leadership will come from public pressure. Political leadership can create public pressure. That has to start somewhere. It can start here.

update, May 6, 2011

This letter was placed in the hands of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, May 5, 2011, newly appointed chairperson of the Democratic National Committee.

It remains to be seen if there will be political leadership coming out of the Democratic National Committee.

update May 1, 2011

President Obama: "We must seek agreement on gun reforms"
President Barack Obama: Special To The Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Daily Star; Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2011 12:00 am

Obama's baby step approach to firearms policy has been rightly criticized.
Obama's statement is as lame as it is long overdue. It is another example of the failed political leadership of the bankrupt Democratic Party. It is little more than pandering to a malignant constituency. Not EJDionne or anyone else at the gun lobby's most reliable asset, the one the NRA calls the "rabidly antigun Washington Post," has now or has ever had any constructive policy advocacy.

Democrats and Gun Control
Published: April 22, 2011
It remains to be seen if Ms. Schultz can separate herself from the failed strategies and failed consciousness of the Mayor Bloomberg and his mayors.

There is a reason why the NRA worked by hard to control and sabotage the true believing Cato lawyers' pursuit of Parker starting in 2003.
Battle of the Gun Ban from July 22, 2003.
The NRA cannot control federal judges with demagoguery. The Parker case in the DC Court of Appeals and the subsequent cases to the Supreme Court were devastating defeats for the gun rights ideologies. After many pages of ignorant and fallacious arguments to invent a personal right and disparage the original purposes of civic obligation and military preparedness, the Parker opinion arrived at the original civic purpose that we can have "registration ... for militia service if called up." That is the basis for a national firearms policy that genuine political leadership would pursue.

The gun rights miltants do not need to worry that there will be genuine political leadership. There has been only one lame-brained, derelict response from the four members of Congress below. That was a response from Sen. Cardin that was completely evasive of the substantive issues raised.

Gun rights and the gun vote are not about guns. They are about controlling political outcomes in a much larger struggle over fundamental civic value and the political economy of the modern state. It is no coincidence that Grover Norquist, the very personification of the political cynicism that motivates the Libertarian Right, is on the NRA's National Board and that David Keene formerly of American Conservative Union is now President of the NRA. [See appearance on C-Span's Washington Journal May 18.] This is all part of the same story. It is nowhere a part of public consciousness.


Chapter 4 in Jeff Faux's The Global Class War

"The Courts and the New Deal," Wm. Anderson, Oct., 2005

"The Right Wing Attack on the American Labor Movement," Wisc. state AFL-CIO, Joanne Ricca, August, 2002

"Rolling Back the Twentieth Century," William Greider, The Nation, April, 2003

"Wisconsin: The Conservative Class War, Part III," Eric Alterman, The Nation, March 28, 2011.

"Stealing the Constitution," Gerrett Epps, The Nation, February 7, 2011.

"Reclaiming the Politics of Freedom," Cory Robin, The Nation, April 25, 2011.

"How Socialists Built America," John Nichols, The Nation, May 2, 2011.

The Nation magazine, the source of most of these articles, has not responded for twenty years to proposals to put gun rights and the gun vote in the larger context.

Why they need a gun in every pocket has not been questioned or explained.
Can we ask the politicians the simple questions?:
1) Do you accept and support the The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 upheld in US v. Darby (1941)?
2) Do you accept and support the conclusion of the courts that we can have "registration ... for militia service if called up".
Asking a few simple questions changes everything in the present politics.

Update, January 21, 2011

Letter of January 17 to Sen. Cardin, Sen. Mikulski, Rep. Hoyer, Rep. Edwards of Maryland where the Potowmack Institute is located. The letter challenges them get serious about the most vital and fundamental issues of political life and take the opportunity the courts have provided.

Update, January 10, 2011

Now we have an armed assault on a member of congress which also took out a federal judge. Will members of congress now get serious about their oath of office and how it relates to the most vital and fundamental issues of political life or will more deranged individuals have a civil right to act out the gun lobby’s childish political fantasy that the purpose of all those guns in private hands is to maintain a balance of power between a privately armed populace and any and all government?

The courts have provided now in the Parker/Heller/McDonald cases the opportunity and framework for a national firearms policy whose sole function should be to contain the illegal traffic of firearms between and among jurisdictions. The federal government need to do little more. The crisis is now no longer domestic. It is international. It is no longer a matter for congressional judiciary committees but also the foreign relations committees.

It is very simple. After many pages of ignorant and fallacious argument in which Judge Silberman in Parker subordinates and disparages the original civic purpose of militia duty and the Second Amendment to invent a civil right to be privately armed for he falls back on the original civic obligation and military preparedness. He concludes that we can have “registration ... for militia service if called up.”, p. 54
Registration and reporting of private sales is the only way the illegal traffic can be controlled. All other efforts are counterproductive.

But, doesn’t anyone understand this issue? The gun rights militants led by the NRA would fight viciously to defeat any legislative attempts to implement Judge Silberman’s conclusions. Registration for militia service means not only the civic obligation to serve but also means accountability to a governing authority and the submission to a regulator scheme. Self-defense is the false demagogic appeal. The way we defend ourselves as citizens under law and government is to apply a regulatory scheme against the lawless. There is no conflict between gun ownership for self-defense and accommodation to the law. The only reason we cannot apply the law against the lawless is that the law would also apply against "armed citizen guerrillas" and others with insurrectionist fantasies.

The constitutional authority for national policy is not the much abused and inappropriately applied Commerce Clause. It is the militia clauses in the constitution, the Second Amendment, and the purposes of the early militia acts.

Accountability is the one point of policy which the NRA works hardest to prevent,
It means the consent to be governed. A civic culture and a national policy follows from there.

The next step toward national policy is to get the Eric Holder Justice Department to conduct a study that updates Attorney General Ashcroft’s 2004,
study in the context of Ashcroft’s own reasonable restrictions and the decisions of the courts that we can have “registration ... for militia service if called up.” Policy follows:

A DOJ study is necessary to clarify issues. There is no issue on which there is more ignorance, absurdity and sheer nonsense. Just for starters analysis starts with these points:

The larger context of the Second Amendment was the evolving republican ideologies that the right of the people was the republican right of the people to participate as conscript citizen soldiers in the military functions of the state rather leave those functions up to a mercenary army whether the British Army recently removed or the US Army which as created in the Constitution was explicitly modeled after the British Army. The original antagonism between the conscript state militias and the mercenary US Army was combined in the twentieth century selective service acts. The US Army became in a sense a national militia.

The next step of getting the Holder DOJ to undertake this clarifying study will require public pressure. The gun controllers and Mayor Bloomberg and his mayors have not been up to the objective.
Now that the momentum toward a national firearms policy has taken on a new urgency, will the congress, if not the Holder DOJ, get serious about the serious business of government and political leadership? Or, will we get more of the same pandering to a malignant constitueny?

August 27, 2010

The Supreme Court released its opinion in McDonald v. Chicago on June 28, 2010. Briefs in McDonald v. Chicago, NRA v. Chicago

The Supreme Court in Heller in 2008 decided on a qualified fundamental right. In McDonald it has decided on 14th Amendment incorporation protecting an individual right from the infringement by state and local government. The problem is that as a matter of policy making the courts have rendered the individual right versus collective right distinction perfectly meaningless.

What is at stake is very far removed from public consciousness. The Potowmack Institute prepared a crude draft of a brief to file in McDonald but no lawyer could be found to refine and file the arguments.
There is no political consciousness among lawyers. The brief would not have made any difference. The courts have become highly politicized and are not interested in arguments. There is no public that holds the courts accountable.

What is missing from public consciousness is that the rulings of the courts starting with Parker in 2007 are devastating defeats for the gun rights core doctrine that the purpose of those gun in private hands, outside of the knowledge and reach of a governing authority, is to maintain an anarchic balance of power between a privately armed populace and any and all government. The political leadership to carry those rulings forward does not exist.

Much of the Supreme Court's historical reasoning in Heller and McDonald was taken from Joyce Lee Malcolm. The Potowmack Institute has challenged Malcolm to put her research, reasoning and purposes to the test of policy making in the context of former Attorney General Ashcroft's "reasonable restrictions" and courts' conclusions that we can have "registration ... for militia service is call up". The challenge is to pursue the next step which is a study by the Eric Holder Justice Department that updates Ashcroft's 2004 study, which was a gun lobby propaganda piece likely written by NRA operatives.
Much is explained and outlined in this appeal to Professor Malcolm. The challenge is general. There needs to be public pressure to force leadership on the Holder Justice Department. The challenge was made in August, 2010. Prof. Malcolm has not responded.

A Department of Justice study could be the beginning of the process of political leadership that will lead to the effective policy making the courts have opened the path for. We cannot be optimistice when the appeal is for political leadership.

There is no political consciousness on what is really at stake. Gun rights and the gun vote are not about guns. They are about furthering a much broader vision of economic, social and political life. The most vital and fundamental issues, values and concepts of political life are what are really at stake. See Malcolm letter. This where we get seriously political. If we have problems, it is because fundamental concepts and values are forbidden from public knowledge and discourse. If the Obama Campaign had had any political consciousness and leadership it would have challenged the McCain Campaign: Do you accept and support the conclusions of the Court in Parker/Heller that we can have "registration ... for militia service if called up"? What McCain going to say? The gun vote goes to Bob Barr and Ron Paul, who are the only candidates who would have understood the question, and becomes neutralized in national politics.

II. Sovereignty and the appalling spectacle of anarchic federal judges

III. Failing our history and historical concepts

IV. Civic values and the politics of the modern state

V. Guns and controlling political outcomes

VI. Toward a national firearms policy

VII. Adolescent insolence, insurrectionist fantasies and personal sovereignty

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