David Kopel points out another skeleton in Eric Holder’s closet: he has a very poor record on gun rights and played a role in the INS’s paramilitary capture of Elian Gonzalez.
Earlier this year (no ancient history here), Holder joined an amicus brief in the Heller case, supporting DC’s total ban on handgun ownership and armed self-defense. Not only did the brief support the now-discredited collective view of the Second Amendment, but it also falsely argued that the collective view had been the consistent position of the Department of Justice for decades.
After the public-defenselessness side lost the historic case, he lamented the result, saying it “opens the door to more people having more access to guns.” That, of course, was the point.
Holder also played a role in the 2000 paramilitary raid on a Miami home to place Elian Gonzalez into custody and send him back to Cuba. Setting aside the question of whether it was right to send Gonzalez back (I’m prepared to concede that the law may have required it, but see the postscript), there was no excuse to stage a paramilitary raid on a peaceful, law-abiding home. Furthermore, the raid was carried out without even the authority of a court order! In fact, the court had refused to issue one.
Janet Reno’s justification for the paramilitary raid, Kopel relates, was that the family might own guns. Amazingly, the possibility that one might exercise one’s constitutional rights are justification for federal agents to knock down your door and storm your house with automatic weapons, without the cover of a court order.
Not only was Holder the deputy AG when this travesty took place, but he defended it in an interview thereafter. In that interview, Holder argued that they did not need a court order to carry out the raid, and was unable to explain why they had sought a court order if they did not need one. He also said that Gonzalez was not taken at gunpoint, and the federal agents acted “very sensitively”. A Cato Institute article relates their “sensitive” behavior:
At 5:14 a.m. — while attorneys for the young Cuban refugee negotiated his status with Justice Department officials — eight Immigration and Naturalization Service officers used a battering ram to knock down the front door of Elian’s great uncle, Lazaro. Wielding machine guns, the body-armor-clad agents knocked over a picture of Jesus Christ and a statue of the Virgin Mary on Easter Eve. They then kicked down another door inside the Gonzalez home.
According to Elian’s cousin, Marisleysis Gonzalez, federal agents held her at gun point while one screamed, “Give me the f – – – ing boy or we’ll shoot you.” An NBC cameraman said federal gunmen kicked him in the stomach, hit his sound man with a rifle butt and yelled, “Don’t move or we’ll shoot.”
Of course, as for whether Elian was taken at gunpoint, we need not take Ms. Gonzalez’s for it, there’s Alan Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo:
POSTSCRIPT: I wrote that I’m prepared to concede that the law may have required that Gonzalez be sent back to Cuba, but it is far from obvious. According to Andrew Napolitano (a legal analyst and former judge), the INS’s action was in direct violation of an order from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling that Elian Gonzalez’s guardian could not be changed until it had heard his application for asylum. If so, the raid was not only dangerous and unjustified, but illegal as well.