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Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 1999 /4 Teves, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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White House
ambulance chasing -- THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION has just outdone itself with its latest outrage of the week. It has announced plans to file a class action suit on behalf of public housing residents against gun manufacturers.

You may be asking yourself, "Why public housing residents?" The official reason is that the government is entitled to reimbursement for the $1 billion it spends annually on security because of the inordinate number of shootings in public housing projects.

But the real reason is that the federal government would have no jurisdiction in this matter without using the public housing residents as pawns in their monomaniacal quest for gun control.

As usual, blame anyone but the responsible parties for the crimes. To Clinton, it's the gun manufacturers who are at fault, not those who fire the weapons.

If this isn't an artificially trumped-up lawsuit, I've never seen one. It is nothing but a transparent ploy to terrorize the gun industry into making gun control concessions that this administration couldn't achieve through legislation.

James Dorr, an attorney for several gun companies, said that there is no legal basis for the federal government to sue gun manufacturers when it has licensed these companies to make and sell guns. Exactly.

Many in the gun industry, who have been cooperating with the ATF "to get the bad guys," justifiably feel betrayed by their own government. "To find out that the very government you're trying to help is going to sue you ... you just don't know where to turn," said Robert Delfay of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

What is really scandalous is that while the Clinton administration claims to be concerned with safety, it has abrogated its responsibility in the one area most likely to promote safety. A recent Syracuse University study showed that prosecutions of federal gun crimes were down by more than 40 percent.

But to me there's something even more troubling about this lawsuit. Simply put, it is a perversion of the legal system and another violent assault on our Constitution. It is an ambulance-chasing power play by the White House.

We must realize that our unique freedoms are preserved primarily in two ways: First, by criminal and civil laws preventing individuals from infringing on the rights of others; and second, the constitutional limitations imposed on government through the Bill of Rights and the Separation of Powers Doctrine.

People are quite attuned to many of the criminal and civil laws and the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Indeed, champions of the various civil rights, such as free speech, sometimes advocate them with a near-religious zeal. But they seem to be less aware of the subtle workings of the Separations of Powers Doctrine and its importance in guaranteeing our liberties.

The framers understood that one of the best ways to limit governmental power was to divide and diffuse it among three separate branches -- legislative, executive and judicial -- and impose an intricate scheme of checks and balances between them. With these checks, each branch is prevented from gaining too much power at the expense of our liberties.

This administration has been particularly abusive of the Separation of Powers Doctrine. The president apparently believes his policy aims are more important than the constitutional safeguards of our liberties. In other words, the ends justify the means.

That's why the administration has no hesitation, for example, in:

  • refusing to cooperate with congressional investigations aimed at curbing its numerous abuses of executive power;

  • by-passing legislative prerogatives with its expansive Executive Orders; and, of course,

  • using the Justice Department for political ends by fomenting baseless class action suits against the tobacco industry and gun manufacturers when Congress failed to regulate these industries according to its liking.

Regardless of their convictions about the "evils" of tobacco and guns, Clinton and other liberals must be called on their freedom-snatching methods of eradicating these "evils."

Our founding fathers deliberately assigned to Congress the power to make laws and to courts the power to interpret them. Policy decisions, such as gun control measures, should be made by the democratically elected Congress, not by appointed and unaccountable judges.

The next time you hear conservatives bellyaching about Clinton's congenital disregard for the rule of law, please remember that they aren't just referring to such trifling matters as his perjuries and obstructions of justice.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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