WaPo Editors Huff at 'Paternalistic' Abortion Ban, Support D.C. Gun Ban

It's "paternalistic" for the U.S. Supreme Court to tell a D.C. woman she can't have a partial-birth abortion. But it would be "perverse ideological purity" for the high court to strike down the city's handgun ban that leaves her defenseless in her own home against burglars or abusive ex-boyfriends. That's the logic flowing from that great fount of legal wisdom, the Washington Post editorial board.

It's not often we criticize newspaper editorials, after all, bias occurs in slanted reporting. One expects opinion in editorials. But I thought it worth pointing out to NewsBusters readers the hypocrisy of the Post vehemently opposing Second Amendment rights but screaming bloody murder when the Supreme Court dared to uphold one federal law outlawing a particularly brutal form of abortion.

In an April 19, 2007 editorial slamming the Court for upholding a federal partial-birth abortion ban, the Post's editorial board lambasted (emphasis mine) "the majority's paternalistic pretense that the law can be justified by Congress's interest 'in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession' and in protecting pregnant women from making a choice they may come to regret."

Yet the Post showed no concern for the District of Columbia's paternalistic handgun ban and its violence to the plain meaning of the Second Amendment. Indeed, in a March 17 editorial, the Washington Post called on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in Tuesday's District of Columbia v. Heller case in such a way that maximizes government's power to regulate the right to keep and bear arms (emphasis mine):

If the justices affirm the individual rights approach, the government then must shoulder the burden of proving that any restriction on that right is justified. Some gun rights advocates argue that the government's burden should be substantial. We strongly disagree.

The Second Amendment, while ensconced in the Bill of Rights among provisions protecting freedom of speech and freedom from unreasonable searches, is different. Words can be offensive; bullets can be lethal. Every right, no matter how precious, is subject to some limits. If the justices recognize an individual right, they can and should allow lawmakers maximum flexibility to enact reasonable regulation. In our view, that flexibility should include the District's law, which is aimed at taking the most dangerous guns off the streets of what was once one of the nation's most dangerous cities. Anything short of this would promote perverse ideological purity over the legitimate interests of lawmakers to protect public safety.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters