Friday, December 21, 2001

Glenn Reynolds and Brian Linse are having a debate about the merits of purchases at gun shows, where current law allows sales without background checks or waiting periods. Brian's position is that al-Qaeda's terrorist manuals tell their operatives how to purchase guns at American gun shows, that some Lebanese guy with a felony criminal record bought guns at a show and would have sent them to Hizbollah if an informant hadn't ratted him out first, and this all seems kinda bad. Glenn's take is that most of the people at the shows are good folks who are no threat to anybody, and you can't buy a tank at a gun show anyway, so how bad can things be? He hasn't gotten around to discussing the Lebanese dude yet, but perhaps he'll follow that great American, General Buck Turgidson, in suggesting that it's not quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up.

This spun off an earlier debate between Reynolds and Josh Marshall, about Ashcroft's jealous refusal to allow the FBI to check whether its terrorist suspects were on record as having purchased guns. Reynolds, using his skills as a law prof, cited chapter and verse from the relevant statutes to argue that if he wanted to follow current law, Ashcroft didn't have a choice.

But respect for the letter of the law hasn't otherwise been a hallmark of the Bush administration. Consider, for instance, the Presidential Records Act, which requires certain documents to be released after twelve years. The administration has issued an order which essentially negates the act by fiat, allowing a former or current President to withhold records indefinitely. (If you want to know why that's a big deal, look here). And there was also that 200-page set of changes to current law that got rammed through Congress so fast that some of the people voting on the bill complained that they never got to read it, which could surely have addressed the issue if it was going to be an obstacle.

As long as I'm on the subject, Sgt. Stryker has a few interesting thoughts about folks whose deep veneration for the Constitution starts and ends with the second amendment...


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