A Piedmont man is facing charges for allegedly threatening Sen. Tim Johnson.
According to the FBI, Jonathan Constantine wrote on the senator’s Facebook page:
“I’m giving you a last warning tim. Stop supporting gun control. It will be the last thing you ever do. If you want to end up dead somewhere just keep supporting it.”
He’s also accused of showing up at Johnson’s Rapid City office and yelling at staffers. According to the affidavit, Constantine declined an interview with the FBI but told them the post “was not intended to be a threat.”
On Saturday the FBI arrested Constantine, and charged him with “using interstate communications to make a threat to injure.”
Read the story from Josh Verges here.
Johnson voted for expanded background checks and limits on magazine size in recent Senate votes, but voted against a ban on assault weapons.
For some who sometimes advocate more local power on key decisions, the position is mostly instrumental. That is to say, they don’t have any firm philosophical commitment to decisions being made more locally, they simply believe that more local governments are more likely to endorse their preferred policy outcome.
If the political situation changes, and they can achieve their policy goals through a less local approach, these people don’t hesitate to abandon their prior rhetoric about local control and embrace a more centralized approach.
For these people, local control is a means to achieve their ends, not an end in itself.
Other people do have a philosophical commitment to the idea of local control. But this is rarely absolute. Sometimes this is practical — a committed state’s rights advocate might nonetheless concede that the military makes the most sense as a national program, for example.
This can also be a matter of principle.
Rep. Manny Steele addressed the issue at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast a few weeks ago.
"That gets into an area that is what I consider a moral issue, not a state issue," Steele said when asked about same-sex marriage. "I don’t deviate from my moral issues."
He’s not alone, and not just on the right, in framing things that way. Many people say they believe in state’s rights — but that certain fundamental moral issues override the principle of local control. Local control is a principle, but not necessarily the highest principle.
The problem is that not everyone who follows this philosophy agrees what is a fundamental moral issue to be decided universally and what is a less important question that should be left up to more local governments.
Take gun control. Sen. Tim Johnson made news yesterday by saying “he favors solutions tailored to a state-by-state approach to regulating firearms… Johnson said firearms issues in South Dakota are not likely to be the same issues as those in New York and New Jersey. Johnson said he is looking for ‘common sense, not one size fits all.’”
This drew a sharp retort from state Rep. Steve Hickey on Twitter:
Sen. Johnson says: “Let states decide on guns” -we have Constitutional Amendments for good reason. Is he saying its time to rescind the 2nd?— stevehickey (@stevehickey) January 16, 2013
Here we’ve got Johnson, who has been skeptical of some gun control measures in the past, advocating a state’s rights approach on the issue. Hickey says the issue is so important it shouldn’t be decided nationally.
It may be becoming obvious that there can be some overlap between this moral/local dichotomy and the instrumental approach, with the philosophy simply a cloak over the instrumental. But some people do have a genuine commitment to local control — the test is whether they’ll advocate for it even when it seems likely to produce results they don’t like.
I’ve heard some rumors around the Legislature that one of the gun-related bills brought forward this session could be to let legislators carry concealed weapons inside the Capitol.
House Majority Leader David Lust and Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson were asked about these rumors at their news conference today.
Lust said he’s had several conversations about that proposal, and isn’t terribly excited about it.
"That’s an issue we can discuss, but I’ve told folks in my caucus I’m more concerned frankly about the chief justice and the Supreme Court justices and the governor than I would be about ourselves," Lust said.
Then he joked about another objection he has to such a bill:
"And of course, I’m not sure we would ever want senators carrying," he said.
Even without a law, scuttlebutt is that some lawmakers do regularly, or at least occasionally, carry their concealed weapons inside the building. I’m not sure the degree to which that’s true.
Should they be allowed to do so legally?
Much of our national debate about gun control is focused on first principles — is limiting firearms something we should do? Must do? Absolutely should not do?
And that’s important. We can’t decide what to do unless we decide what our goals as a country are.
But if we as a body politic did decide to proceed down that route, what specific policies could we enact, and would they work?
Wired takes a look at five such policies, laying out how new gun laws would work, how they might reduce gun violence — and how they might fail or even backfire.
For example, looking at the popular proposal for limiting the size of magazines:
Pro: Anytime a shooter has to stop to reload increases the chance that victims could escape; that law enforcement or others can stop an assailant; and, basically, fewer people will die. Robert Wright of The Atlantic goes a step further and proposes a ban on firearms carrying more than six rounds or a detachable magazine, meaning a shooter would have to reload bullet by bullet.
Con: There isn’t strong data correlating restrictions in magazine size with drops in gun crime. As the Washington Post’s Brad Plumer points out, the assault weapons ban exempted about 30 million high-capacity magazines, so studying the impact of the ban is surrounded in statistical noise. A shooter can always carry multiple loaded weapons.
It’s a relatively even-handed practical look at one of the most divisive issues in America today.
You can read the whole thing here.
This morning, President Barack Obama announced he’d introduce and push new gun control laws by the end of January. Sen. Tim Johnson had a news conference this morning, at which he said he’s not advocating such laws but is open to them.
So I asked Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem what their thoughts are on calls for new gun control. Are they open to such proposals, or are calls to ban assault weapons or high-capacity magazines non-starters with them?
I requested interviews. Instead (as is somewhat typical across the delegation) I got statements. Thune:
The horrific acts of violence that occurred in Newtown, CT on Friday were beyond unthinkable and we are left with many unanswered questions. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, the teachers, the first responders, and all who were impacted by this evil. As the father of two daughters, I cannot imagine the pain these parents are going through right now. Our schools are meant to be safe havens for our children and a tragedy like this causes fear and anxiety for all parents across this nation. We reject this violence—it has no place in our society. As we evaluate what happened on that terrible day, we look to better understand ways we can prevent this type of violence from happening again.
I can only imagine the grief parents, siblings and others in Newtown are feeling right now. Like other parents across the country, Bryon and I have spent the last few days thinking about our three children and how these parents are dealing with their terrible loss. My heart and prayers go out to all those affected by this senseless tragedy. Our schools are places where our children are supposed to feel safe, and that sense of security was shattered last week. America is not a country where parents should fear sending their children to school. This kind of violence is not acceptable, and we need to examine the results of ongoing investigations and find the best way forward.
Two things immediately jump out to me here.
- The statements don’t address the subject that I asked about, new gun control laws.
- The statements are basically the same.
Let’s unpack them a little.
They both begin with three statements expressing sympathy for the victims of the Newtown shootings, including a mention of the lawmakers’ own children and what parents of the victims are going through. (There are some key differences! Thune says he “cannot imagine” the parents’ “pain;” Noem says she “can only imagine” the parents’ “grief.”) Then the fourth sentence says that schools are supposed to be “safe” places, a safety that has been shattered by last week’s shooting. The fifth sentence rejects this new, post-Newtown normal. The sixth sentence refers generically to investigating and evaluating the shootings and finding an unspecified way to prevent them.
It’s almost like the two statements were customized versions of a single set of talking points handed out to GOP members of Congress.
Neither lawmaker’s staff have responded to my follow-up inquiries asking for them to address the questions of gun law that Democrats have raised.