And if we do listen, it is to people we agree with or to news outlets that re-enforce what we already believe. Too often we no longer open the newspaper, turn to a television news channel, switch to a radio station or even log on to the Internet to be informed. We take one of those actions to be re-enforced.
We all do it.
Last week when President Barack Obama released his proposals to limit or at least change the way we buy guns was an excellent example of that from both the right and left of the American political system.
For instance, before Obama announced his plans, Gov. Phil Bryant was busy sending a letter to legislative leaders warning them that the president “would likely issue an executive order today that infringes our constitutional right to keep and bear arms as never before in American history. I am asking that you immediately pass legislation that would make any unconstitutional order by the president illegal to enforce in Mississippi by state or local law enforcement.”
Later that morning, the governor held a news conference to re-enforce opposition to Obama’s likely “unconstitutional order.”
When questioned about Obama’s proposals, Bryant said, “We’re expecting whatever he says we are going to be against.”
Upon additional questioning, though, Bryant conceded that he might not have a problem with expanding background checks of individuals purchasing firearms.
And Bryant was careful to put restrictions on Mississippi’s resistance to any federal action. He said on several occasions “resist by all legal means.”
Bryant even refused to embrace the ad by the National Rifle Association that said Obama was “a hypocrite” because his daughters had armed guards. The governor said that the family of the president of the United States – any president of the United States – should have adequate protection.
Think about the international consequences if a member of the president’s family was kidnapped by terrorists.
In others words, the governor said some reasonable things. Those statements were not reported much by he media, especially by liberal blogs that only wanted to point out that Mississippi – as is its history – was trying to fight the national government.
Bryant said he was opposed to a ban on so-called assault weapons and on magazines that carry more than 10 rounds.
OK, lots of people have the same views on those issues as does the governor. It is not unreasonable to have a position other than that of the president.
But the president did not issue executive orders to ban assault weapons or any magazine clips. He is asking Congress to pass laws that do that – just as in 1994 Congress passed a 10-year ban on assault weapons.
Perhaps the ban was unconstitutional, but no court said it was. It simply expired after 10 years and because of the politics was not renewed.
The question, then, is what was unconstitutional in the president’s executive orders? He asked the agencies he oversees to enhance their background check efforts and to do more research on gun violence. Perhaps one can quibble about the public good of such moves, but are they really unconstitutional?
Maybe that is why it is so hard to get things done in modern politics. Instead of looking for common ground, the blanket statement is made that the opinion of the other side is unconstitutional.
When asked what was unconstitutional in Obama’s proposal, a spokesman for the governor said , “As a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and a recipient of the Kirk Fordice Freedom Award in 2005 from the Jackson chapter of the NRA, Gov. Bryant is a strong, consistent supporter of the right to bear arms. Since issuing his call to Mississippi lawmakers to protect law-abiding citizens’ gun rights, an overwhelming number of people – both from this state and others – have expressed their appreciation and support.”
Not to be outdone, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann sent out a statement saying, “President Obama circumventing Congress by limiting gun rights through executive order only silences the voice of Mississippians who oppose any restrictions on our constitutional right to keep and possess firearms.”
When asked what part of the executive orders was unconstitutional, a spokesperson said, “He didn’t say the executive orders were unconstitutional.”
Of course not, he only said it was a restriction on constitutional rights. That is different?
If we would only listen to each other.
Bobby Harrison is Capitol Bureau chief in Jackson for the Daily Journal. Contact him at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.