Careful Throwing The ‘E’ Word Around

Despite the fact that I don’t look too highly on legislators placing themselves above the laws that apply to the rest of us, from Instapundit:

I agree that he seems to have broken the law. But it’s within a prosecutor’s discretion not to prosecute, and cases of inadvertence like this are often dropped — and should be. (It’s not clear that Thompson even knew the gun was in the bag.) Reader Larry Boykin thinks I’m an elitist (“So, it’s alright to have one set of laws for the common man and another set of laws for the ‘elite’? That’s what you are advocating if you believe that charges should be dropped. “) but I think that charges should be dropped for anyone in these circumstances. Would they be? Well, I don’t know. I know of some similar cases where ordinary people weren’t charged — but it’s true that they weren’t at the U.S. Capitol. If charges are dropped here under public scrutiny, of course, that’ll be an argument for treating ordinary people in similar circumstances similarly in the future.

I don’t think Glenn is an elitist. I agree that prosecutors should use discretion in cases like this, and I wouldn’t want to see anyone get the book thrown at them under similar circumstances, even if they were in Congress or were a staffer, just because they made an unknowing mistake (and who would knowingly put a briefcase on an x-ray machine if they knew they had a gun inside?).

I have no problem with shaming Jim Webb or his staffer for what appears to be carelessness. I have no problem with frowning on, or speaking out against politicians who carry guns in places the rest of us can’t, because they can get away with it, while we can’t.

But I can’t ignore the fact that I believe Washington D.C.’s gun laws are unconstitutional. I don’t want to see anyone prosecuted for a law that shouldn’t be on the books, whether they are an ordinary Joe, or whether they are Jim Webb. The constitution protects all of us, even politicians.

If we don’t like the idea of politicians flouting even unconstitutional laws that apply to the rest of us, and believe me, I don’t, we can remedy that at the voting booth.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh suggests that Webb’s aide should not be charged because he may be flat out not guilty.

3 thoughts on “Careful Throwing The ‘E’ Word Around”

  1. I don’t think he is an elitist, either. I do think he may be a little naive if he thinks any prosecutor, repeat, any prosecutor, wouldn’t charge Billy Bob from the Fish Shack with a felony whether he knew the gun was there or not, whether he had evil intent or not, under similar circumstances.

    Lyndon Baines Johnson, one of the most corrupt and constitutionally abusive politicians to ever exist , warned us not to judge the rightness of a law based on how well it might work when properly applied, but how much abuse it could lead to if improperly applied.

    I’m sorry, as much as I think neither Webb, nor his aide have done anything wrong and are not deserving of punishment, they did break the law. Now I am not an advocate of obeying laws that are not just or constitutional. So this may sound odd, but I am even less an advocate of selective enforcement of the law. Selective enforcement allows the “elite” to break the law with impunity, while there is no consideration given to others, no matter the facts of the case. This then, causes no urge in our “self-anointed betters” to correct laws that abuse the populace while they , themselves, enjoy immunity.

    This is a flaw in our system we cannot correct at the voting booth, because the newly elected will soon incorporate the “specialness” of their status into their outlook and the thrust of their legislative endeavors. It is heady stuff to realize one is above the “rabble” in word and deed and consequence. It takes a truly special person to resist that siren call. Let’s face it, people willing to spend their entire adult lives in a popularity contest are not all that special, in the true sense. Unless being shallow is special.

  2. I think they should probably be charged and arrested. And I think the trial and jury should judge them as peers. If a grandfather can get arrested in New Jersey for killing a rat in his garden, I don’t see why a Senator can’t for breaking the law in DC.

  3. I agree that the aide should not be charged or if charged for it only to be misdemeanor. But, for Sen Webb to face serious consequences for his actions or lack of actions.

    I also believe that this incident could be uses, it taken advatage of soon, to assist in the repeal of the DC gun ban.

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