A number of important stories that otherwise likely would be receiving greater media attention in recent days, have been largely crowded off the front pages of the news because of the stories swirling around the government’s takeover of General Motors, the heated verbal battle between President Obama and former Vice President Cheney, North Korea’s nuclear belligerence, and other important goings on in the world arena.
No, I am not talking about the shameful efforts by the California “Octo-mom” to reap financial gain from her bizarre octo-fertilization. Nor am I concerned that “John and Kate Plus Eight” are having marital difficulties and their tribulations are not receiving consistently front-page coverage. I am talking about a pair of federal court decisions in recent days that support our Second and Fourth Amendment rights.
A federal court decision recently in California struck an important blow for both firearms rights and lawful commerce. The oft-times liberal Ninth Circuit last month upheld a federal district court decision that protected a lawful manufacturer of handguns (Glock) and a lawful, federally-registered distributor of firearms (RSR), from being subjected to a lawsuit by victims of a criminal who shot several people with a handgun.
Here’s a bit of background on the case. A crazed gunman shot several people in the Los Angeles, California metro area back in 1999. Although the criminal shooter is serving a life sentence for his heinous shooting spree, and while neither Glock nor RSR did anything wrong in manufacturing and selling in lawful commerce a handgun that eventually wound up in the gunman’s hands, the victims sued them to try and make them financially liable. It didn’t work.
A law passed by the Congress and signed by former President Bush in 2005 — the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” (”PLCAA”) — provides protection against specious lawsuits by persons trying to make a firearms retailer or manufacturer liable for the subsequent criminal misuse of a firearm. Just as manufacturers and sellers of other lawful products (such as automobiles) are not liable for the subsequent misuse of their products, the PLCAA provided similar protection for those involved in the lawful firearms business. Americans who support not only the right to keep and bear arms, but who support lawful commercial activity in America, have had their rights strengthened by the Ninth Circuit’s decision in this case (Ileto, et al. v. Glock, et al.).
In another matter working its way through the federal court system — this one in support of our Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable government searches and seizures – the Obama Administration is facing sanctions by a federal judge in California who is upset that the Department of Justice has failed to obey an earlier order by the court in a case involving illegal wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA) during the prior administration. The government is refusing to turn over documents to the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that the court ordered be released to them.
While this wiretapping case is not likely to answer the ultimate question of whether a president should be permitted to order a federal agency such as NSA to wiretap citizens’ phone calls and e-mails without warrants (as required by the Fourth Amendment), the federal judge handling the case is moving clearly to at least provide civil relief for persons who have had their private communications improperly surveilled by the government. This may be a small step for privacy rights and the rule of law, but its an important one.