Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chicago, Mexico City - A Tale of Two Cities

Tuesday's news cycle points up similar political realities

A man is afraid to navigate the streets of his Chicago

He is a man of color who lives in fear that armed gang
members will cut him down with bullets. He has not the
legal right to go armed or even to own a handgun for his
personal protection in his own home.

It's the law.

The City of Chicago and its neighboring suburb, Oak Park,
have long-standing laws against handgun ownership - for any
purpose - by anyone but police officers.

On Tuesday, proponents of the Second Amendment right to keep
and bear arms argued against those laws before the U.S.
Supreme Court on behalf of Otis McDonald and others.

They told the justices the Fourteenth Amendment's
guarantee that, "No state shall abridge the privileges
or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor
shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty,
or property, without due process of law; nor
deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws..."

Mr. Justice Antonin Scalia confronted the Second Amendment
Foundation attorney Alan Gura about his approach.

In his argument, Mr. Gura told the Court they should extend
to all citizens the right to own firearms based upon the
Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of freedom from abridgment
of "privileges or immunities."

Rather, Justice Scalia thundered from the bench, would
it not be easier to move the Court to cite the "due process"
and "equal protection" component of the Amendment?

Trained observers say the attorney appeared to be
nonplussed, somewhat stunned by the abruptness of the
Justice's tone and demeanor.

Then came the most telling hammer blow. Mr. Justice Scalia,
who is said to be a known foe of reliance upon the due process
clause, asked, "Then why are you asking us to overturn
140 years"

Two years ago, the Court declared unconstitutional a similar
stricture imposed by the District of Columbia. That decision
stopped short of nullifying state and city laws that preclude
firearm ownership because the District is a ten-mile square
reservation designated in the Constitution as the "seat of
government." It is not a state, nor is it a political
subdivision of a state.

This is the issue before the Court.

Does the Second Amendment guarantee that the citizens' right
to keep and bear arms extend to states and cities where
local law prohibits that right?

It is a crucial question in this election season, a litmus
test of a person's political beliefs.

Every day, one hears people of substance and means,
political candidates, owners of incorporated business
ventures, farms and ranches, manufacturers, insurance
executives, transportation and construction moguls,
operators of small business, educators and media types say
that they are living in fear of their Federal government.

They aren't joking. They are serious.

Their fears have definable features, specific causes, real
consequences, known exigencies.

Their fear extends in all directions and includes fear of
taxation, government audit, selective regulatory
restrictions, police power, surveillance and criminal

These are not denizens of the underworld, vice lords, drug
addicts, convicted felons or most wanted police characters
with their names and pictures plastered on the Post Office wall.

They are property owners, proud parents of prosperous
children, university-educated professionals in business,
accounting, law, medicine - some of them office holders or
former office holders.

And yet, they say they fear their government.

Recently, an office seeker up for election in the primary
told The Legendary in confidence that he thinks the final
bulwark against a radical shift to totalitarian socialism in
this nation, an assault on private property and private
business enterprise, will be the right of the people to keep
and bear arms under the terms of the Second Amendment.

The government, he said, will not be anywhere near as likely
to impose martial law, attempt to seize private property or
take away the basic human rights of citizens when the powers
that be know full well that the people are armed and ready
to defend themselves against any such tyranny.

Surrounded by the din of hundreds of voices in excited
conversation, we stood and looked at one another frankly for
a long moment.

"May I quote you on that?"

The man recoiled instantly. His demeanor was shattered in
nervous reaction. His countenance fell and he became very

He said no.

Please, let's not do that.

Obviously, this right to keep and bear arms is something
everyone is immensely aware of, and yet no one much wants to
talk about it. Why?

It's too hot a subject to handle. Any expressed view at all
is deemed too radical or too hard core to face public

Nevertheless, proponents of a strict construction of the
Second Amendment say the framers of the Constitution and the
Bill of Rights, the founding fathers who built in the human
rights guaranteed U.S. citizens, meant it as a deterrent to
aggression, no matter from what source it may spring.

It is a controversy that prudent and cautious people shy
away from in their public pronouncements, but to which in
private conversation they seem to return repeatedly.

In another story told on Tuesday, the day of the Supreme
Court hearing on McDonald v. Chicago, the National Security
Archives publicized a set of documents declassified by the
U.S. government.

It concerns the fate of certain persons such as Roberto
Antonio Gallangos Cruz, who along with his wife Carmen
"disappeared" during the seventies in Mexico City.

Agents of Dirección Federal de Seguridad kept him under
surveillance for many years following his release from
Lecumberri Prison following an arrest in 1968 in connection
with his antiwar actitivies and militant involvement with
the 23rd of September Communist League.

In June of 1975, he was again arrested and he and his wife
Carmen subseuently dropped totally out of sight.

Their orphaned daughter made it a lifelong project to find
out what happened to them.

As it turns out, the documents show that political spies
and informers turned them in and they were executed by
summary and executive means.

Government agents had been empowered by the ruling party,
PRI, to deal with insurgents by almost any counterinsurgent
means necessary after radicals kidnapped U.S. Consul General
Terrance Leonhardy in May 1973 and U.S. Vice-Consul John L.
Patterson in March 1974. The U.S. government increased
cooperation between Mexican security forces and the FBI, CIA
and other American security agencies at the time.

It is an oft-told tale throughout the Americas.

An independent non-governmental research institute and
library located at The George Washington University, the
National Security Archives is a not-for-profit 501(c)3
corporation founded by former "Washington Post" journalist
Scott Armstrong, a staffer of the Senate Subcommittee on

The archival service obtains and archives declassified
government documents through Freedom of Information Act

According to a Washington Post feature story, the Archive
files roughly 2,000 FOIA requests annually, collecting about
75,000 documents. The Archive appealed 549 FOIA decisions in
2006, and has filed more than 40 lawsuits to obtain
compliance with its requests.

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