Every time someone is murdered with a firearm, it seems, the New York Times joins the liberal chorus in demanding that the law require more background checks. The current background check system is inadequate because 1) it has little relevance to criminals, who obtain their guns illegally anyway, and 2) the overwhelming majority of mentally unbalanced people aren’t on the list. You can say one thing for the current system, however: it does identify convicted felons, and it prevents such persons from buying or possessing firearms, legally. That is the core of what the NICS is supposed to do, and one might assume that liberal organs like the Times would be entirely in favor of it.
It turns out, however, as Ann Althouse noted, that the Times is surprisingly flexible on this point. It favors giving violent felons the right to carry firearms, but only when it can use the issue to reflect badly on a possible Republican presidential candidate. The Times story is almost funny, in a macabre way:
Aware of the awkwardness, the two men arranged to meet in the evening quiet of the local community center. Their only previous encounter, a decade ago, had ended with a thrown punch and a broken nose. …
The punch they shared had come out of who knows where, maybe Iraq, to still a long-ago liquid night.
I love that phrase: “the punch they shared.” Last night, Miguel Cotto “shared” four punches with Sergio Martinez that sent Martinez sprawling to the canvas, four times. Generally speaking, a punch is thrown by one man and received by another. This punch, though, was thrown by…Iraq? Can we blame George Bush? Please?
But its impact was still being felt by the former Marine, who threw the right jab [Ed: It is highly unlikely that the punch was a "right jab," but no one expects the Times to know anything about fighting.] just days after returning from a second deployment; the victim, who has not breathed the same since; and the governor, who chooses never to exercise an executive power of ancient provenance.
To show mercy.
That’s the real point, according to the Times: Governor Scott Walker doesn’t “show mercy” by pardoning convicted felons. Well, that certainly distinguishes him from Bill Clinton, who issued pardons in return for financial contributions and, it is reasonable to infer, sexual favors. Some would say Walker’s position is both more honorable and better public policy. But not the New York Times!
In this instance, the man who “shared” his punch was a combat veteran who outweighed the punch’s recipient by 70 pounds. The guy on the receiving end of the “shared” punch has never been able to breathe properly since. But through the partisan lens of the New York Times, the story is all about…Scott Walker!
One problem: The governor of Wisconsin is Scott Walker, a possible Republican contender for president who, since taking office in 2011, has declined to exercise his power of pardon, granted to him by the Wisconsin Constitution.
With the Pizer case emerging as a cause célèbre in Wisconsin, the governor has defended his no-pardon policy, saying that he sees no reason to “undermine” the criminal justice system — no matter that pardons were frequently granted by at least the last five governors before him.
It would be interesting to hear the New York Times articulate the conditions under which a governor is required to pardon a violent felon. When a governor exercises the power to pardon, he is responsible for the consequences: a violent offender is released from prison, and is authorized to carry a firearm. If something goes awry thereafter, the governor will be held responsible. And why, exactly, should one particular offender be pardoned? Thousands have been convicted, thousands are imprisoned, thousands are barred from legally possessing weapons, and only one or two are singled out by the New York Times and similar outlets, for political reasons, not because their circumstances are different from many others. Lots of felons have thrown a single, devastating punch, and have lived to regret it.
The Times’s heartwarming story about Eric Pizer ends with a meeting between him and the man with whom he shared a punch, brokered by an organization called Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice. (It would be interesting to know who funds that group.) At the end of the meeting the guy who was on the receiving end of the shared punch forgives the guy who threw it. I think that is fine: forgiveness is a good thing. But forgiveness can come only from the victim. Forgiveness is not the function of the criminal justice system.
In order to protect the public, the law is that convicted violent felons can’t own firearms. One can debate the wisdom of that law, or argue for various exceptions. But everyone knows what would happen if a Republican governor pardoned a veteran with a single blemish on his record, like Eric Pizer, and that felon, with his right to possess firearms restored, went on to commit mass murder or some other horrible crime–just as the governor who pardoned him was running for the presidency. We would never hear the end of it.
But don’t hold your breath waiting for the New York Times, or any other Democratic Party spokesman, to explain when a governor should pardon a violent felon, and when he should not.