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Firearm Mandate Joke Backfires: GOP Embarrasses South Dakota Again

Last updated on 2011.02.05

Hat tip to Northern Valley Beacon!

Rep. Hal Wick (R-12/Sioux Falls) and the co-sponsors of House Bill 1237, the personal firearms mandate, must have thought they were pretty clever proposing a bill that would never pass but would make some grand point about their opposition to the insurance mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. They got lots of press, as hoped. But as various commentators have scrutinized the bill, they have found that Wick and friends can't even argue their point right.

RCJ's David Montgomery, for instance, immediately grasped that the bill makes a false comparison between state and federal powers. TPM's Eric Kleefeld then pointed out that even at the federal level, Wick is wrong: the Founding Fathers enacted a personal firearms mandate. Kleefeld called Wick and pointed out to him the Militia Act of 1792, signed by President George Washington himself, requiring white male citizens (oh! the discrimination!) aged 18 to 45 to acquire not just a musket, rifle, or firelock but ammunition and even a knapsack!

Kleefeld then called Rep. Wick and exposed his lack of education:

I then asked him whether he had an opinion on the gun mandate that was signed into law by Washington in 1792. "I wasn't aware of it," he said after a short pause. "Is it still on the books or has it been removed?"

I explained that the Militia Acts were amended many times over the course of this country's history, and this provision was phased out a long time ago.

In the course of the interview, I asked whether this would change his opinion on individual mandates. "No," he said. "I really don't feel like a gun mandate would be constitutional under these circumstances."

What does he mean by the circumstances?

"Well, it was shortly after the Revolutionary War, and it was before the War of 1812," he said, "which may have been something that was on the radar screen---that they knew there could be another challenge coming from overseas. I'm not a history major, though" [Eric Kleefeld, "Anti-HCR 'Gun Mandate' Stunt Meets... George Washington," Talking Points Memo, 2011.02.02].

Not a history major... no kidding, Hal!

In his stumbling defense of his ill-conceived, uninformed legislation, Wick slips and accepts that federal mandates of individual purchases may be justified by circumstances. Well, if the vague, clairvoyant anticipation of a war with England two decades away can justify a mandate, can we not also apply cool Romney-esque business logic, anticipate the disruption of economic security caused by unaffordable health care, and require universal participation in health insurance?

In making a point, Rep. Wick has failed miserably. He has made himself and our Legislature look like uneducated buffoons. You would think the South Dakota Republican Party would have learned from Don Kopp's astrological warming debacle last year that they should avoid talking about issues beyond their education and focus on passing a budget.

Update 2011.02.05 20:17 CST: Thomas Mack gets it, too: Rep. Wick's bill may actually prove that federal mandates for individual purchases are perfectly Constitutional. Can't wait to hear you in committee, Hal!

One Comment

  1. Matt Groce 2011.02.04

    Tell me he recorded that conversation. I need it on my mp3 player. That will play right after "Good Day Sunshine".

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