Here are Graeme's comments about Charlton Heston's speech to the Harvard Law School Forum, February 16, 1999
Charles Heston failed to make the case that the moral decline or increased "political correctness" of our society threatens any of our Constitutional rights.
It's a powerful speech, but it's full of cheap shots. Comparing any minority to Jews who were killed during World War II diminishes the atrocity while at the same time exaggerates the crime against that minority (the latter, of course, is why people make that comparison so often). How can Charlton Heston do that and still feel he's on the right, er, correct side of the issue? "Americans know something without a name is undermining the nation, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don't like it." That's right, Chuck, the rules are changing to protect new minorities, and members of the majority (including denture-wearing gun totin' geezers like you) don't like it.
Whenever there is a conflict between the rights of a minority against the "tyranny of the majority", rules must be made to protect those rights. Our country is founded on that ideal. Heston cites twelve examples of such rules, some formal, others informal. In every case, the rule covers situations or has side-effects that go too far, in the view of Mr. Heston. To highlight his opinion, he cites some glaring examples of the misapplication of such rules. These are "slippery slope" cases, which provide a cheap way to attack rules of any kind. ("But officer, I wasn't parked, I was just driving verrry slooowly!") For every David Howard who uses a word that pushes people's buttons (however technically correct and non-racist the word may be) there are thousands of people who really do use offensive racist language. Whenever attempts are made to draw lines around proper conduct there are people at the edges of good conduct who are falsely accused of breaking the rules. Official reaction to these cases is to "fix" the rules. Example: the rules requiring permission for each stage of courtship.
Mixed together with the twelve examples of rules made to protect minorities are two examples -- true or not, I don't know -- of cases where improper actions were taken for monetary gain: second amendment scholars are made to keep quiet and racist and inflammatory speech is published by Time/Warner. By mixing these two examples with the minority-protecting rules, he seeks to imply rules that protect minorities somehow infringe our right to bear arms. He didn't make that case.
He comes close to making a glimmer of an argument that our right to bear arms is infringed when the little old lady is sued by her mugger for harm to the mugger inflicted during the mugging. But he loses what little steam he mustered when he fails to follow the chain of the argument to its conclusion, which would go like this: Our right of access to the courts runs counter to our right of "do it yourself" justice as construed by some who read the Second Amendment. Once again, for whatever reason -- maybe he was afraid he'd lose his footing on that slippery slope -- he didn't make the case.
FYI, the twelve rules Charlton Heston doesn't like, along with my probable reason for each rule, are printed below. This is not a defense of the rules; rather, an explanation of why these rules were probably made. In some cases, the explanation is admittedly weak. My point in clarifying them is simply to show that when you unwrap the rhetoric from around them, the rules don't signal the decline of society, and also that not one of these rules was made in order to infringe (or even has the effect of infringing) our Second Amendment rights!
Keep the cards and letters coming!
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Oh, by the way, if you read this and think I'm a pinko leftist whining gun-control advocate, read my argument in favor of abolishing all gun controls!
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