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Correcting AP on Supreme Court's McDonald Decision

Posted by: Unknown on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 5:20:32 pm

One of the most gratifying things I've been involved in over the last year has been the reinvigorated interest in the constitutional underpinnings of the American Republic.  Whether it's the Tea Party Movement or our work with ReConstituting America, Let Freedom Ring, and Liberty Central, there is something truly satisfying as this resurgent interest in the principles upon which this nation was founded.

Conversely, it is more-than-irritating when folks grossly misstate these principles--and, in fact, write in such a way as to perpetuate misconceptions.  It is, in fact, entirely destructive of those principles.  So it was, today, with the Associated Press' Mark Sherman, whose initial piece on the Supreme Court's Decision in McDonald v. Chicago claimed that the High Court had "expanded" gun rights in America.  So I decided to drop Mr. Sherman a note:

Mr. Sherman:

I read with great interest your reporting on the Supreme Court's decision today in McDonald v. Chicago.  But the headline, and your introductory paragraph, make an erroneous statement:  the Supreme Court today did NOT expand or extend gun rights.  Today, the High Court struck down unconstitutional limitations on those rights - restoring what had been erroneously taken away.

There is a tremendous difference between the two perspectives.  The latter recognizes that we, as a people, are endowed with a collection of rights, a state of being that was affirmed and sought to be protected by the founders and the documents that set about the rules under which our system operates. 

The former, on the other hand, leaves a reader with the impression that rights can be expanded or narrowed at will, and that in this case, the Justices of the Supreme Court were going beyond the scope of what is constitutionally warranted.  That perspective is unfortunately both persistent and ubiquitous among Americans, a misunderstanding of the nature of rights which puts them constantly under the threat of assault.  If we believe that rights are held at the whim of government officials, and can be narrowed or expanded at will, then it becomes that much harder to defend them when they are so narrowed.

I'll put it to you this way:  assume for a moment that the High Court had spent years chipping away at the ability of journalists to practice their craft--and, in fact, had affirmed state-based rules which sharply limited the proliferation or even existence of news outlets.  If, today, McDonald v. Chicago had struck down these rules, would you have announced that the Supreme Court had "extended" or "expanded" 1st Amendment rights?

I doubt that highly.

Facts are important things, Mr. Sherman.  This is especially important when talking about the fundamental principles which underlie our Republic.  I'd ask that you take greater care when reporting on them in the future.


Andrew Langer
President, The Institute for Liberty


Private comment posted on June 30, 2010 at 3:53:02 pm

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