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J.J. Ladouceur: An open letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Posted: January 31, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 31, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

I’d like to talk to you about consistency in your policies and some contradictions that I find with them. Particularly, I would like to talk about what your opposition to a controversial section of the National Defense Authorization Act and your subsequent support of a ban on assault weapons have in common.

You recently co-sponsored an amendment to the NDAA called the Feinstein-Lee amendment that would give back to citizens suspected of terrorism their Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury — because before, according to the act, American detainees could be held indefinitely by the CIA without a right to a trial.

I want to thank you for this. I think it was great that you could work together with Republicans like Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., to help fight for such a basic right.

In co-sponsoring this amendment, I believe you rightly understood that it would be wrong to take away the liberty that millions of Americans hold to a trial by jury in the name of security.

In other words, just because a few citizens might actually be terrorists and the ability to hold them indefinitely might have national security benefits, you affirmed that it is not OK to take away the liberty of millions of law-abiding citizens who deserve the right to a trial by jury to gain that potential security.

On the contrary, you recently introduced a ban on assault weapons in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And while I sympathize with you deeply, I fear that in supporting this weapons ban you are being highly hypocritical.

How can you say that when it comes to national security, the liberties of the individual and their Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury far outweigh the ability of the CIA to potentially foil a terrorist plot and save lives (by holding citizens indefinitely), but then say that when it comes to domestic violence, the ability of the government to take away assault weapons, and possibly prevent mass shootings from happening, far outweighs the liberty of the individual to his or her Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms?

Why is it not OK to take away millions of law-abiding citizens’ Sixth Amendment rights because of a few citizens among them, while it is OK to take away millions of law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights because of a few citizens among them?

How can you say that liberty is greater than potential security in the case of the Sixth Amendment but not in the case of the Second?

I find this position lacking any principle whatsoever. In taking these two different views on similar civil-liberty-related issues you are basically saying: I favor liberty when it’s those Republicans favoring security but I favor security when it’s those Republicans who favor liberty.

That is not good leadership; that is politics.

You might object to my argument by saying that you actually do favor Second Amendment liberties because you don’t wish to ban all guns, only “assault weapons.” However, this is the equivalent of Senator John McCain saying that he does favor Sixth Amendment liberties because under the NDAA, detainees still have a right to habeas corpus.

But this is ridiculous and you know it.

Senator Feinstein, you certainly wouldn’t deny that a right to habeas corpus is good, but it is no right to a trial by jury. Now what I would say is: the right to own only a handgun is good (certainly better than no gun), but it is no Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

It’s easy for you to get emotional and say: “These are weapons of war! They have no purpose on the streets.” But it is also easy for proponents of the NDAA to say: “These people crashed a plane into a New York City building on 9/11. This is not a conventional war where we can afford to take a chance that our citizens may be plotting against us.”

Unfortunately, emotions — whether after the terrible tragedy of 9/11 or the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary — have a way of getting the best of us. And while it is easy to criticize others for letting emotion make bad decisions, it is often hard to see how emotion may guide our own.

With that being said, I hope you will either reconsider your support for this assault weapons ban and look for other ways of addressing these types of problems that don’t undermine American’s civil liberties or, for the sake of consistency, revoke the Feinstein-Lee Amendment and change your position regarding the NDAA.

J.J. Ladouceur is a resident of Castaic.

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