Saturday, July 05, 2008

Have gun, will babble

Attorney General candidate Tim Fox is challenging opponent Steve Bullock to delineate his position on 18 specific gun rights issues.

"Protecting our gun rights is one of the most important issues in Montana," Fox says. But is it?

Few things seem less likely than that the Montana attorney general will have to decide any key gun rights issues over the next four or eight years. The Montana Legislature won't pass any bills undermining gun rights, and Congress is unlikely to. Even if it does, a state attorney general's opinion isn't likely to matter much one way or the other.

The attorney general's position on any big issue doesn't really strike me as critical, except perhaps on issues that come before the State Land Board. What we really need is an attorney general who:

1. Can provide the state with sound legal counsel, regardless of his personal position on the issues involved.

2. Can write opinions that match what a judge in a similar position would be likely to hold. Attorneys general aren't needed to break new legal ground but to provide realistic interpretations of the law that will withstand judicial scrutiny.

How having a strong opinion about the Second Amendment figures into the work an attorney general actually does isn't clear to me. True, there might be an occasional opportunity for a friend-of-the-court brief on a gun-related case, but that doesn't mean that Fox's passion about the topic will necessarily translate into good legal doctrine.

One might argue instead that passion isn't necessarily a virtue in the attorney general's office. Good judgment, not strong emotions, is what's required.


Chuck Rightmire said...

I would suggest that passion leads to more legal mishandlings than a reasoned consideration of the same topic. Commas have meaning in the English language. And passion leads more to "crimes of passion." We don't seem to hear much about "crimes of reason."{

Anonymous said...

A prospective attorney general tells us quite a bit about himself by telling us how strongly he feels about the Constitution and Bill of Rights and his feelings about any attempts to diminish them.

Anonymous said...

Actually, gun rights are a very important issue for the Montana Attorney General, and it's important to know that there's a big difference between Tim Fox and Steve Bullock. When it comes to gun rights, the AG is responsible for:

*Monitoring nationwide litigation and getting involved to protect Montanan's rights with amicus briefs

*Providing testimony at state and Federal legislative hearings on gun legislation

*Commenting on Federal government gun regulations like the recent National Park's gun rule revisions

*Initiating litigation to contest unconstitutional gun laws

*Providing public education and speak out on gun rights issues, gun safety, etc.

*Enforcing existing gun laws through the Highway Patrol, Division of Criminal Investigation, and by assisting other law enforcement agencies

*Educating MHP and other DOJ personnel about how to implement procedures that respect Montanan's individual gun rights

*Directing the State Crime Lab and other DOJ divisions to sell seized legal firearms to the public at auction after evidentiary time has passed, rather than destroying those firearms

*Educating Montana municipalities, state universities and colleges, and other government entities as to what they can and can't do in restricting gun rights

*Bringing litigation against municipalities, state universities and colleges, and other government entities that unlawfully implement unconstitutional gun laws, ordinances, regulations or policies

David said...

Your list sounds like a lot of different ways of pretty much saying the same thing.

Anonymous said...

You've said plenty of things i disagree with but your statement about AG's needing to guess what a judge might decide is incredibly stupid. The AG should give opinions and take action based on law. Period. As we've experienced too often, some judges are not reliable to render decisions based on the law. A good AG should know the difference, but always side with the law, not personal whim.

David said...

No, not guess. The point is that attorney general opinions have the force of a law until a court holds otherwise. Attorneys general who repeatedly issue opinions that are overturned by courts probably aren't doing their job right.

Anonymous said...

Oh, okay, so by all means an AG should try to guess/predict/devine/prognosticate what,say, the very liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals might decide, nevermind what the law says. Okay, I see what you want. It makes no sense, but perhaps that's why you're not an attorney.

Anonymous said...

The Supreme Court decision on the Heller case was 5-4...That's one vote away from taking away 2nd Amendment rights of Washington, DC law-abiding citizens who want to own a gun. I don't see any crazy, wild-eyed passion when Tim Fox asks his opponent to clarify his position on 18 specific gun rights issues. Please identify with specificity where Mr. Fox demonstrates what you seem to think is "passion" or too much of it. I just read the challenge and I don't see it. Actually, Mr. Fox sounds dispassionate which is what I want in an attorney--someone who understands and dispassionately defends the law.

David said...

"Crazy," "wild-eyed": your words, not mine. Readers can judge for themselves whether my words apply.

Anonymous said...

you dodged the question, Crisp.

David said...

If Mr. Fox denies that he is passionate about the Second Amendment, I will withdraw my statement (with a chuckle).

Anonymous said...

The word "passion" was not used in Tim Foxes statement anywhere. That was your word applied to him and then implied that it was unhealthy. The very premise of your argument (too much passion) is unfounded. As a writer, you know very well that some words have connotations that can be cast as negative. You have used and skewed the word "passion" for your own ends. Your bias against Mr. Fox is obvious. I'm not sure how that works for you as supposedly objective journalist (cough cough), but having seen how you "operate" it's not surprising.

Anonymous said...

When did you stop beating your wife, Dave?

David said...

Yes, "passion" is my word, and I stand by it. I don't think Fox would disagree.

I do not mean to criticize passion. My own particular passions run more toward the First than the Second Amendment, and I apologize to no one for that.

All I'm saying is that if it were my job to advise my client (i.e., the people of Montana) on how the Constitution applies in a given case, I would do my best to set my passion aside and try to judge the case based solely on its merits.

I'm not saying that Fox can't do that. In an earlier post, I noted that he sounded impressive the one time I heard him. I'm just saying that his news release doesn't do much to inspire confidence that he will put the law above his ideological preferences.

David said...

Anonymous 228,
I never beat my wife on Tuesday.