Brady Center is selective about which rights are invalid
Paul Carpenter
January 11, 2009

Several nights ago, during an insomniac episode of channel-surfing, there appeared a documentary on the exodus of theatrical people to Hollywood when tyranny gripped much of Teutonic Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.

That exodus benefited the American film industry immensely. For example, most of the cast of ''Casablanca,'' including those in bit parts, consisted of major film and stage stars who had fled from Europe.

I was particularly interested in director Fred Zinnemann of Austria, who gave us some of our best movies -- from ''High Noon'' to ''From Here to Eternity'' to ''Julia.'' You cannot escape his insights about the way individual courage stands against society's bullies.

Also, in one of my favorites, ''The Day of the Jackal,'' Zinnemann showed how a devout criminal can overcome the most rigid gun controls imaginable.

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''High Noon,'' however, is among everyone's favorites, and Zinnemann was quoted as saying that film ''is about a town where democracy has gone soft.''

Zinnemann knew all too well how such things can happen in other countries, but they should never happen in America, which is (or was) a unique bastion of individual, self-reliant grit.

Eastern Pennsylvania, it seems, has become a focal point for people who prefer a softening of both democracy and self-reliance.

A law-abiding woman is fighting efforts by bullies to suppress her rights.

Lebanon County Sheriff Michael DeLeo decided that only the power structure's people have the right to be armed -- the Bill of Rights be damned. So he revoked a gun permit issued to Meleanie Hain after people at a soccer game said they saw her with a holstered pistol.

In October, The Morning Call carried a brief story about Lebanon County Judge Robert Eby ruling that DeLeo had to obey the law and return the permit. In November, another story said Hain took DeLeo to court over his illegal action.

I thought that was that, until two weeks ago, when the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence sent me an e-mail from Washington, attacking Hain for exercising her rights.

Hain ''posed a danger to the community,'' the Brady Center said, and her court action ''has no legal basis and should be thrown out.''

Daniel Vice, a lawyer for the Brady Center, was quoted as saying this: ''It should be obvious to anyone that a civilian bringing an openly carried, loaded semiautomatic weapon to a child's soccer game poses a grave risk to the community.''

I promptly e-mailed some questions to Vice.

I asked if only the agents of government have the right to bear such weapons (as was the case in Zinnemann's Austria). Should everyone, I asked, ''have blind faith in government people and no one else? In view of what we regularly see government people do, would that not strike you as a demented approach?''

I asked if there is something significant about Hain having a semiautomatic weapon. ''Is it not a fact that police officers routinely carry such weapons?''

The Brady Center has argued that the Bill of Rights gives the right to bear arms only to a militia, which now is represented by the government-controlled National Guard.

So I asked this: ''Are you saying it was the intent of the Founding Fathers that only the agents of government ... should have the right to bear arms? Are you familiar with the way virtually all of the Founding Fathers defined 'militia?' (They said a militia consisted of citizens not under the control of government.)''

I asked Vice if he knew of other nations (say, Nazi Germany or modern Mexico) where rigid gun control has worked well. Is there more crime in Switzerland, with its universal right for citizens to be armed, or in a police state like Mexico?

I asked about law enforcement officials violating other specific constitutional rights. ''Will the Brady Center support law enforcement officials who selectively violate free speech, religion, search and seizure, or other enumerated rights?''

That was two weeks ago, but Vice has not yet replied.

If Fred Zinnemann were still alive, I think I know what he'd say about all this. 610-820-6176

Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.