“Laws are like sausages―it’s best not to see them made,” is often attributed to Otto von Bismarck, although there is some dispute if he ever actually said it. Nevertheless, most people who follow politics even a little bit see the wisdom, and humor, in the remark. Sometimes, when the legislative process reaches a fever pitch, as it did this summer on health care, you can see not just sausages being made, but the “chefs” acting like three or more stooges and with “equipment” invented by Rube Goldberg. It is not for the faint of heart or those without a passing familiarity with the Theater of the Absurd.
Bismarck (or whoever) first coined the sausage metaphor was referring to the legislative process, but the law making processes also encompass the other branches of government.
To be sure, an executive, such as the president, cannot actually make law, although he can issue executive orders and can certainly use the Bully Pulpit to impact the legislative process, stumping around the country demanding this or that piece of legislation. In turn, his spotlighting of a particular issue can cause constituents to petition their legislators―either for or against as we have seen this year in contentious town hall meetings around the country.
An executive―president, governor, mayor, what have you―may also charm, cajole, arm-twist and call out legislators to get his way. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. He is like a maître d in an extremely fancy restaurant.
And, finally, there are the courts to rule on whether laws are constitutional.
The process of the courts is supposed to be slow and deliberate, and it always seems to be the former if not the latter. In this regard the process is much more like baking than sausage making or serving dinner.
While there is room for interpretation and innovation in baking, it starts with some pretty hard and fast rules that are ignored or changed at peril.
Whether it is your grandma’s snickerdoodle cookie, an artisan boule of tomato basil, or a marzipan peacock cake fantasy, there are rules and procedures that can’t be broken and that take time―lots and lots of time.
I was reminded of this when looking over page proofs for this issue. What a lot of court cases! Some of which impact only a few gunowners, but most of which will resonate with us all, sooner or later.
The DC Appeals Court case, captioned Wrenn v. District of Columbia, which the Second Amendment Foundation, parent of W&G, sponsored (detailed on Page 5 of this issue), is a good example.
The Court, in a 2-1 decision, ruled against a “good reason” requirement in carry licenses in the District, freeing residents of the caprice of the licensing body there. Judge Thomas Griffith wrote, “The good reason law is necessarily a total ban on most DC residents’ right to carry a gun in the face of ordinary self-defense needs…”
There are a host of other places where the “good reason” stipulation exists―New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey chief among them.
Should the Wrenn case go to a full court hearing and/or the Supreme Court, a decision there would impact other locations.
What’s fascinating, though, is that Wrenn is really just another piece of a cake first baked in 2008―11 long years ago―in the Heller Supreme Court decision which first broke the District’s ban on law-abiding citizens owning guns and in the McDonald decision two years later which nullified Chicago’s handgun ban.
In the decade since Heller and McDonald, the recipe for gunowners’ success has been painstaking, and, yes, slow. Like bread that can’t be hurried, but must rise in its own time, these decisions come unhurriedly, but with great impact.
Each one—like grandma’s secret ingredient that makes the pastry just perfect―makes the next attempt that much easier.
When lower courts rule on gun laws, their decisions go in the books―quite literally and are then available to other jurists and lawyers working subsequent cases. Just like that batch of Christmas cookies you froze eight months ago and then serendipitously found when you needed dessert in September!
It’s a good idea to save room for such sweets, especially after a meal of sausages.