S. Dakota Proposes Mandatory Gun Ownership to Prove Point

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And now, for a bit of political theater, lawmakers in South Dakota have proposed a bill requiring anyone in the state old than 21 to purchase a gun. John Ellis at Argus Leader reports that the measure is an act "to provide for an individual mandate to adult citizens to provide for the self defense of themselves and others." But really, it's just an act intended to prove a point about why mandated health care is unconstitutional. “Do I or the other cosponsors believe that the State of South Dakota can require citizens to buy firearms? Of course not," Ellis quotes Representative Hal Wick who is sponsoring the bill. "But at the same time, we do not believe the federal government can order every citizen to buy health insurance,” he said. Deep, right?

The move is considered genius by some. As Jennifer Epstien at Politico notes, Fox's Ann Coulter declared Republicans should respond to mandated health care by requiring the purchase of a gun and Bible by all citizens. “There’s a lot more evidence that owning a gun and a Bible is better for society than everyone having to own health insurance,” she said. And HillBuzz's Kevin DuJan thinks it's "brilliant," hoping it will force "regular people to see just how unconstitutional Obamacare is, while simultaneously exposing Democrats as hypocrites and fools for ramming this legislation through without really considering its consequences." DMartyr at the Jawa Report also likes what Wick and crew are trying to do. "It makes sense," he argues. "If the Obama administration thinks they can force individuals to insure their health, why shouldn't state legislators force people to defend themselves?"

Not everyone is amused, however. Below, liberal bloggers react with frustration:

The health care insurance mandate is part of a larger reform law that regulates the national health care system, legally permissible at the federal level through the Commerce Clause, and as Mitt Romney can tell you, legally permissible at the state level, too. As a practical matter, there's no meaningful difference between this and mandatory car insurance, mandatory flood insurance in coastal areas, or mandatory property insurance imposed on some factory owners.
How is this the equivalent of forcing South Dakotans to buy a gun?
  • John Cole at Balloon Juice: "I'm not sure exactly how that proves his point, but I'm not a wingnut, so wingnut logic doesn't work on me."
  • Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway: "This bill does little to prove anything and just makes its advocates look silly."
  • Katie Bird at The Confluence: "Who comes up with ideas like this?...Oh, NOW I get it. It's an asshole's idea of a metaphor."

But perhaps the most comprehensive argument against the South Dakota stunt comes from Jazz Shaw at the conservative blog, Hot Air. "While I see what he’s doing here, and it’s a valid argument to make, I’m still not thrilled with the path he has chosen to make his point," writes Shaw, warning that such proposals actually hurt the gun rights cause more than they help it. "It plays to the popular, media driven theme of 'gun nuts' versus responsible gun owners." The Hot Air blogger predicts the South Dakota lawmakers' efforts will probably end up backfiring by shifting the discussion from health care back to gun control, forcing people to question the second amendment even further.

He concludes:

It’s a question of steering the national discussion in response to such a provocative proposal...And if we’re going to draw up a parallel to focus a brighter spotlight on the Obamacare mandate, gun laws of any sort might not be the best path, particularly at this juncture in history.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.