Bloomberg’s Constitution

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The New York Sun

“The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry. But we live in a complex world where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.” That is the latest from Mayor Bloomberg in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. He is quoted in by the New York Observer’s Jill Colvin, in a dispatch that gives, en passant, a glimpse of the mayor’s inchoate view of the American parchment.

On the one hand, His Honor warns that we live in a “very dangerous world” in which “there are people who want to take away our freedoms.” So, he says, “we’re going to have more cameras and that kind of stuff.” He goes on to call that “good in some sense” but “different from what we are used to.” On the other hand, Ms. Colvin quotes him as pointing to the gun debate and noting that the courts have allowed for what she paraphrases the mayor as calling increasingly stringent regulations in response to ever-more powerful weapons.

Well, we suppose that’s one way of looking at what the Supreme Court has said. Another way of looking at is that the Supreme Court has said that while some regulation of guns may be permitted, the government is prohibited from going too far. The Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, has noted that some think that the Second Amendment is “outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem.”

The Court called that “perhaps debatable.” But, the Court continued, “what it is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.” Yet extinct is precisely what the Second Amendment has become in Mayor Bloomberg’s New York, where, we have quipped, Mother Teresa couldn’t get a permit to carry even a small-caliber pistol. Nor could even the most law-abiding and well-trained citizen. So what are New Yorkers, or anyone else, to make of the blithe assurances from the mayor in respect of the Constitution.

On the one hand, he is quoted by Ms. Colvin as suggesting we’re going to “have to live” with what he calls “reasonable levels of security.” The word “reasonable” echoes the Fourth Amendment, which vouchsafes the of Americans to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against “unreasonable” searches and seizures. At the moment, the Bloomberg administration is in federal court fighting for the right to stop and frisk New Yorkers whom police officers suspect might be up to no good. Seems reasonable to us.

On the other hand, the mayor is being quoted by Ms. Colvin as pointing to the use of magnetometers to catch weapons in city schools. In other words, he is for searching pupils and adult visitors whether or not they are suspected of being up to no good. That, too, may turn out to be reasonable. “It really says something bad about us that we have to do it,” quotes the mayor as saying. “But our obligation first and foremost is to keep our kids safe in the schools; first and foremost, to keep you safe if you go to a sporting event.:

It seems that the obligation the mayor puts “first and foremost” is “to keep you safe if you walk down the streets or go into our parks.” From there it’s but hop-skip-and-a-jump to keeping you safe when you order a soda pop along with the French fries you’re going to wash down with it. This week the mayor has changed his mind and decided it also involves prohibiting persons under the age of 21 from purchasing a pack of cigarettes — not even smoking them, simply purchasing them, even if for, say, a parent.

This is the context in which New Yorkers roll their eyes when the mayor is quoted, as he is by Ms. Colvin, as saying: “What we can’t do is let the protection get in the way of us enjoying our freedoms.” Here is His Honor’s chutzpah: “You still want to let people practice their religion, no matter what that religion is.” He neglects to mention, say, that he’s in court trying to protect his power to regulate the way religious Jews conduct the ritual of circumcision. At the end of the day the mayor’s lectures on our national parchment suggest a public figure who views the Constitution as a convenience of the Nanny State.

The New York Sun

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