Grassley: Obama's logic on guns turns Constitution on its head

Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) argued on Tuesday that President Obama has completely misinterpreted the Constitution as a tool the government can use to impose tighter gun laws instead of a document that protects individuals from government.

"President Obama's remarks turned the Constitution on its head," Grassley said on the Senate floor. "The president reads the Constitution differently than it has ever been understood as a source of power against individual rights rather than a check on government power that guarantees those individual rights."

Grassley was referring to Obama's remarks on Jan. 16 in which he proposed that Congress impose new limits on gun ownership. In those remarks, Obama said the right to worship was denied to Sikhs in Wisconsin and the right to assemble peaceably was denied to shoppers in Oregon and moviegoers in Colorado.

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"That most fundamental set of rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness ... were denied to college students at Virginia Tech and high school students at Columbine and elementary school students in Newtown and kids on street corners in Chicago on too frequent a basis to tolerate," Obama said, referring to the sites of several prominent shootings.

But on the Senate floor, Grassley said Obama is misconstruing those pieces of the Bill of Rights as a justification for government action against its citizens. Instead, Grassley said, the Bill of Rights was meant to protection people against excessive government actions.

"Mr. President, this is incorrect, because except for the prohibition on slavery, the Constitution only limits actions of government, not individuals," Grassley said.

Grassley said the right to peaceably assemble was meant to protect people's right to protest government actions, and he said Obama "trivialized and mischaracterized" that right as one meant to protect "shopping and watching movies."

"And those constitutional rights are not a source of government power to enact legislation, as I think the president has suggested," Grassley continued. "Quite the opposite: They're designed solely to preserve individual autonomy as against the government."

He added that it is no wonder people fear Obama wants to further restrict people's Second Amendment rights given how he reads the Constitution.

"It should be a matter of deep concern to all of us when you have a president that wants to use the power of government to corral individual rights," he said.

"As the Judiciary Committee and all of us consider and debate legislation arriving from the tragedy at Newtown, I hope we will proceed with a proper understanding of the relationship that the Constitution establishes between governmental power and individual liberty."

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