Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The right to trial? Optional. The right to bear arms? Inviolable. (Or: Why Lindsey Graham is indefensible.)

A friend points me to this Huffington Post article, where Sen. Lindsey Graham defends allowing people on terror watch lists to buy guns -- but doesn't want American citizens accused of terrorism to be given their criminal defense rights:

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's appeal to what he called "common sense" at a congressional hearing Wednesday morning failed to sway two Republican senators who said that giving the government the ability to block the purchase of guns by suspected terrorists would undermine the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.

Graham described the bill as an instrument of those who would ban guns altogether. "We're talking about a constitutional right here," he said, explaining that he could not support a bill that would force "innocent Americans" to "pay the cost of going to court to get their gun rights back."

Graham wasn't nearly as concerned about rights when he launched into a disquisition on the treatment of American citizens accused of terrorism. "I am all into national security," he said. "I want them to stop reading these guys Miranda rights."

Like many of his fellow Republicans, Graham assailed the administration for respecting the constitutional rights of suspected terrorists, suggesting instead that they should be treated like enemies on the battlefield.

"Even if you're an American citizen helping the enemy, you should be seen as a potential enemy," he said, "not as someone who committed a crime in New York."

I'm trying to find a way to make this intellectually coherent, but it involves too much reaching for plausibility. Being suspected of terrorism is enough to forfeit your right to trial -- but being suspected of terrorism isn't enough to forfeit your right to buy weaponry?

Really? The Second Amendment is inviolable but the Sixth Amendment is optional? Isn't Lindsey Graham a lawyer? One who is on the Judiciary Committee and thus lectures judicial appointments about fidelity to the Constitution? It's an embarrassment to the country and the Republican Party.

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