Freshman Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz had the stupidity, and audacity, to lecture Senior California Senator Diane Feinstein about the Constitution and the Second Amendment.
Senator Feinstein, known for her efforts to curb gun violence in America, was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the equivalent of a City Council, when San Francisco Mayor George Mascone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated.
Feinstein found Moscone’s body lying in a pool of blood, and had to feel through his bullet-hole riddled body to check for a pulse.
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Senator Feinstein was also the first to arrive in Milk’s office after his assassination, and again made efforts to revive him, even though he was already dead.
These tragic events informed Feinstein about America’s gun problem, and led her to propose an assault weapons ban in 1996.
That ban was adopted by the House, the Senate and signed into law by Bill Clinton.
Unfortunately, the original assault weapons ban expired after ten years, and George W. Bush and the Republicans chose not to renew it.
So, in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, Senator Feinstein introduced a new assault weapons ban, and yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee took the measure up for a panel vote.
That’s when rookie Senator Cruz decided to go off on a condescending, rambling, and poorly informed rant about the Constitution.
Senator Cruz asked Feinstein if she’d want to limit the First and Fourth Amendments in the same way that she was proposing to limit what he interpreted to be the meaning of the Second Amendment.
Feinstein responded by saying, in part, “I’m not a sixth grader. Senator, I’ve been on this committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in, I saw people shot. I’ve looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons. I’ve seen the bullets that implode…Its fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it. Just know I’ve been here for a long time. I’ve passed on a number of bills. I’ve studied the Constitution myself. I am reasonably well educated, and I thank you for the lecture…”
Senator Cruz may have failed to understand what Senator Feinstein meant by “I’m not a sixth grader,” so here’s the essence of it.
We all learned in sixth grade civics – which Ted Cruz apparently missed (or wasn’t paying attention to) – that our “rights” come with certain “responsibilities” or “limits.”
Our First Amendment right to free speech is limited, for example, by an injunction that we not yell “Fire” in a crowded theater.
Similarly, as a talk show host, there are certain words that I’m forbidden from saying on the air.
Cruz asked what books Feinstein would want banned.
Has he never heard of child pornography?
Similarly, our Fourth Amendment rights to privacy are circumscribed in a thousand ways.
If a police officer walks up to your car, or your front door, and smells pot smoke, do you still have a right to privacy?
Or, what if the same officer sees you covered in blood and holding a gun? Do you still have a right to privacy then?
Senator Cruz, himself, wants to limit the privacy rights of women, by infringing on their right to abortions, so he’s clearly in favor of limits on the Fourth Amendment.
The simple fact, which gun industry shill Ted Cruz wants to ignore, is that none of the rights protected to We the People in the Bill of Rights are absolute.
With regard to the Second Amendment, I highly doubt that Cruz himself would argue that people should be able to own rocket-propelled grenades or shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, although those are “arms” that can be used by individual people, and could be used by a well-regulated militia.
While we need legislation banning weapons of war from our city streets, it’s increasingly apparent we need another bit of legislation, and right away.
And that’s one that would mandate that every new member of Congress sit down with a sixth grade civics teacher and learn how the Constitution works, so future Senators won’t run the risk of making the embarrassing and stupid mistake that Ted Cruz did.