by Fred Thompson
When I was working in television, I spent quite a bit of time in New York City. There are lots of things about the place I like, but New York gun laws don’t fall in that category.
Anybody who knows me knows I’ve always cared deeply about the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. So I’ve always felt sort of relieved when I flew back home to where that particular civil liberty gets as much respect as the rest of the Bill of Rights.
Unfortunately, New York is trying, again, to force its ways on the rest of us, this time through the courts. First, they went after U.S. gun manufacturers, seeking through a lawsuit not only money but injunctive control over the entire industry. An act of congress in 2005 blocked, but did not end, that effort.
Now, the same activist federal judge from Brooklyn who provided Mayor Giuliani’s administration with the legal ruling it sought to sue gun makers, has done it again. Last week, he created a bizarre justification to allow New York City to sue out-of-state gun stores that sold guns that somehow ended up in criminal hands in the Big Apple.
The lawsuit has been a lesson in out-of-control government from the get-go. Mayor Bloomberg sent private investigators to make “straw” purchases – illegally buying guns for somebody else. According to the ATF, NY’s illegal “stings” interfered with ongoing investigations of real gun traffickers.
Obviously, New York won’t get much cash out of the few dozen shops being sued in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia; so the purpose can only be political. Some of those sued have already buckled under the financial strain of legal defense and agreed to live by New York City rules.
Ironically, all of this comes at a time of historically low violent crime rates and historically high gun ownership rates nationally. States where it is legal to carry guns are also at an all-time high, up to 40 from 10 in 1987 by NRA reckoning.
While this attack by New York City on the Second Amendment reinforces the importance of appointing judges who apply the law as written, there is another important legal point. Federalism, though usually seen as a protection of the states from the federal government, actually grew out of the need to protect states from other states that interfered in free commerce beyond their borders – as New York is doing today. In this case, we need Federalism to protect states from a big bully in New York City.