I would like to thank REASON for printing the interview with Nadine Strossen ("Life, Liberty, & the ACLU," October). If anything can convince those of us who are concerned with liberty that the ACLU doesn't represent us, it is that interview. In the past 50 years, the government has grown in power and size and has become more tyrannical in its scope. Where has the ACLU been while all this has transpired? Why, chasing church ladies off government property, and patrolling school grounds in search of those naughty, praying children, of course.
As someone who is irreligious, I am not in the least bit afraid of Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell. They can take nothing from me that I do not choose to give to them. The government, on the other hand, is characterized first and foremost by its ability to use force.
Yet we find that in cases that matter to most Americans--school choice, gun control, property rights, and taxes--Ms. Strossen and the ACLU come down on the side of the government. America desperately needs an organization dedicated to fighting for individual liberty. Unfortunately, the ACLU isn't it.
Ken B. Steen
Ms. Strossen's positions seem to be reliant upon "case- by- case" examination, meaning that no one could have fair warning that a law was about to be broken until some subjective judge had a chance to review the activity in question, and decide based on what he feels.
Her view on the rights of the owners of rental properties is a classic example of this unworkable, subjective philosophy. While upholding the right of a property owner to control rentals in "an owner- occupied" dwelling, Ms. Strossen then says, "suppose it's large enough so that it's not really a private dwelling?" Where would Ms. Strossen draw this arbitrary line at which property ceases to be a private dwelling because it has grown too large? At that point, is it "public" property, since it's no longer private? Has she ever heard of the Takings Clause?
Her position on the shopping mall question is the fatal blow, showing that she is more interested in power than in justice or rights. "The common area in the mall, which is the functional equivalent of a sidewalk outside the traditional store or town square" must be open to all forms of private expression. The "common area" is not the functional equivalent of a sidewalk. It differs in that it is built, owned, maintained, and serviced at private expense. And to create a positive responsibility for owners (such as disclaimer signs, counter-speech, and the rest of the garbage suggested by Ms. Strossen) is to deny that property rights exist. Of course, this denial is a cornerstone of the ACLU platform.
T. Anthony Rowls
For some time I have been offended by the ACLU's relative blindness regarding our Second Amendment rights, particularly when compared with its tireless efforts to support the First Amendment, and its infuriatingly microscopic vision when it comes to the rights of individuals who are essentially violent criminals.
The ACLU needs to do a better job of protecting the rights of those of us who are not inclined to infringe on the rights of others. Unfortunately, after reading your interview with its new president, Nadine Strossen, I can only conclude that if the quality of her thoughts pertaining to the Second Amendment is representative of her abilities in general, the ACLU is in more trouble than ever.
First, she stated that the inclusion of the phrase "well regulated" in the language of the amendment itself "seems to defy any argument that regulation is inconsistent with the amendment." This is a truly otiose argument on her part. It's ludicrous to imagine that the phrase was originally intended to refer to regulation in the sense of rules or limitations. It conjures up an image of a militia of bureaucrats straining to carry 50-pound military handbooks along with their rifles. Undoubtedly, the intended meaning of the root word regulate was more like "to put in good order," the fourth meaning of the word shown in my copy of Webster's dictionary.
The wording of the Second Amendment clearly implies that the framers of the Constitution wanted a militia that could shoot well, not one that could cope with regulatory minutiae. I noticed that Ms. Strossen did not try to make nonsense out of the phrase "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." She simply ignored it. I wonder how she would interpret the word infringed.
Second, she attempted to evade the issue of the ACLU's lack of support for the Second Amendment by asserting, "civil liberties are [not] necessarily coextensive with constitutional rights." She goes on to egregiously assert, "The fact that something is mentioned in the Constitution doesn't necessarily mean that it is a fundamental civil liberty." While I agree with her former assertion, the latter is just wrong. Looking at it in terms of set theory, constitutional rights are subsumed by the larger set of civil liberties, but to assert that any of the constitutional rights is outside the set of civil liberties is pernicious.
Last, Ms. Strossen said she does not believe "having a gun in your home is something that can ultimately fend off the power of a tyrannical government." This is another piece of sophistry; her implicit argument is that small arms are ineffective against a modern army. Does she not remember how effective widely distributed small arms were against our vastly more powerful army in Viet Nam? Furthermore, her argument begs the question: What could one resort to using to fight tyranny after guns are banned? Does she think that bricks and pitchforks would work better?