It looks like Americans are in for a long campaign by Mayor Bloomberg to exploit the killings at Newtown, Connecticut, for his campaign against what he likes to call “illegal guns.” The children slain in Connecticut hadn’t even been identified when Mr. Bloomberg was issuing statements attacking President Obama for failing to take “immediate” action. The thing for the rest of America to keep in mind about Mr. Bloomberg is that in his hometown he has become known for playing a very slippery game.
This starts with the name of one of the organizations Mr. Bloomberg uses, known as Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In fact it plumps for prohibitions on guns that are currently legal. The organization likes to quote police chiefs who are for more gun control. This line of argument was demolished after the Aurora, Colorado, massacre, by the Wall Street Journal. It issued a piece by John Lott reporting that the overwhelming majority of police chiefs surveyed in America believe that “any law-abiding citizen [should] be able to purchase a firearm for sport or self-defense.”
That, Mr. Lott noted, was the finding of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. It covered more than 20,000 chiefs of police and sheriffs. Adds Mr. Lott: “Seventy-seven percent believed that concealed-handgun permits issued in one state should be honored by other states ‘in the way that drivers’ licenses are recognized through the country’—and that making citizens’ permits portable would ‘facilitate the violent crime-fighting potential of the professional law enforcement community.’”
We don’t believe that Mr. Bloomberg is a dishonest man. But he is not being forthright with New Yorkers or the rest of America in respect of guns. As recently as today the mayor went on Meet the Press and declared, “Nobody questions the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, but I don’t think the Founding Fathers had the idea that every man, woman, and child could carry an assault weapon.” In fact, Mr. Bloomberg has done absolutely nothing to help New Yorkers get gun permits, which are granted to but an extremely small elite.
This is a galling circumstance to one of Mr. Bloomberg’s most distinguished constituents, Craig Whitney, who recently retired as a long-time editor of the New York Times and promptly came out with an important book called “Living With Guns.” He did his own research on how the Second Amendment came into being. Because Mr. Whitney is himself such a moderate figure, his book has emerged as a symbol of the backlash building against Mr. Bloomberg’s blarney.
For it turns out that even though Mr. Whitney is a veteran who, while in the Navy, was trained in arms and carried a weapon in Vietnam, he still can’t carry a gun in Mayor Bloomberg’s New York. It’s something for the rest of the country to understand. Mr. Whitney writes that he “never felt the need for a firearm to defend myself or my family during the twenty years, off and on, that I have lived in New York City as a reporter and editor.”
“But if I did,” Mr. Whitney writes, “I would have almost no chance of getting a permit to carry a handgun on the street, and little chance of getting one to have only in my apartment. Why not? Because I wouldn’t be able to demonstrate to the police that I have a need for it, and they have almost complete discretion in deciding who gets a permit. I don’t run a risky business like transporting diamonds through the streets — I’m not in the jewelry business and I’m not a Brink’s guard.”
Mr. Whitney calls this “a strange state of affairs for a constitutional amendment that is part of the Bill of Rights. Consider that I don’t have to demonstrate a need for my First Amendment right of free speech. I don’t have to demonstrate a need for my Fifth Amendment right not to be compelled to incriminate myself, or for my Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. Why should I have to demonstrate a need for my Second Amendment right, the right of the people to keep and use arms?”
It’s a question that Mr. Bloomberg has failed to answer and that has left him without credibility in the national debate that has become so acute in the wake of the latest killings. The nation is reeling with pain and sorry for the loss of life in Connecticut, all the more so because of the innocence and helplessness of the children who perished. To bring to this the sly games and political campaign that Mr. Bloomberg is offering is not only disingenuous but it is a kind of indecency. New York, America, and Newtown deserve better.