Unchecked and unbalanced .. .
By ZACHARY SCHILLER
THROUGH THE LONG LIST of figures, dates,
battles, scandals and presidential campaigns, in-
delibly imprinted upon the memory of most Ameri-
cans via high school American history is the notion
that despite temporary deficiencies and imbalances,
the American system of government has proved itself
the most stable in the contemporary world because
of its famous "checks and balances" system.
In fact, my high school history class even listened
to a record which explained why a country needs a
government and why our government is the best
It all started back with the Iroquois of New York,
when the great father saw that he had to install some
type of government or everyone would be fighting
everyone else. So, he divided the tribe into nine
groups, and everything seemed wonderful.
HOWEVER, LOOKING at the situation some time
later, the great father (perhaps the sexist symbol of all
time) saw that the tribes were fighting one another
for their land and possessions.
So, he thought about the situation and tried to figure
out some solution. Finally, he hit upon a plan. He
again divided the tribe into groups, only these were
clans which cut across the lines established before.
He began what we now call the system of checks
and balances. A group wouldn't fight another group,
because then a clan would be fighting a clan. And
clans wouldn't fight, because that would cut across
Well, it worked just fine until the white Europeans
arrived and destroyed everyone and everything-
system of checks and balances and all.
SOMETIME LATER, the Founding Fathers took tp
where the first father left off. They argued and de-
bated, and finally established a constitutional form of
government, including checks and balances, which
exists to this very day. And, until someone comes
along and destroys the whole thing, it should work.
However, a few people seem to be growling about
our magnificent form of government, for some inex-
It seems that Sen. Clifford Case (R-New Jersey) is
demanding that the Nixon administration disclose all
details of the U.S.-aided operations in Laos, including
the cost, the personnel and agreements involved, and
"most importantly, when will it all end?"
Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.) proposes to
make the State Department more responsible to Con-
gress by requiring it to obtain an annual legislative
authorization for its appropriations. The reason?
Fulbright described it as a "response to the out-
rageous refusal of the State Department on many oc-
casions to supply legitimate information to the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee."
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Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual
opinions of the author. This must be noted in all reprints.
Wednesday, August 4, 1971 News Phone: 764-0552
NIGHT EDITOR: JONATHAN MILLER
-JAMES WECHSLERE.. .-
T IS A MATTER of record that President Nixon and hard-
line anti-Crime crusader Attorney General John Mitchell
are stoutly resisting proposals for enactment of stringent federal
What comes as more explosive news is the disclosure, joyously
Fulbright: 'Outrageous refusal' heralded in the latest issue of the American Rifleman, that the
administration has allocated $134,000 for research primarily de'-
Even Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R-Penn- signed to "determine how much - or how little - use each
vania) seems to have joined the fight against the handgun can withstand before breaking down or .becoming risky
tcutive branch of the government. He said recently to fire."
.t the executive branch "maintains as much secrecy The gun lobby could hardly ask for larger evidence of'solici-
possible to the point of suffocation and isolation." tude in high places.
"The time has come," he said, "when Congress will
not be denied the right to participate, in accordance
with the Constitution, in the whole enormous business
of how wars are begun."
SEN. SAM ERVIN (D-North Carolina) has also
opened hearings on legislation to keep the executive
branch from withholding information from Congress.
Somehow, these actions of Congressional leaders
throw a different light on our once hallowed system of
checks and balances. And after the Supreme Court
ruling on the Pentagon papers case, Atty. Gen John
Mitchell is still trying to decide whether to prosecute
the authors of the original stories.
Such complete disregard for the Constiution, if you
look back at our history, has not been unusual. A par-
ticularly blatant example of such violations occurred
during the famous Pullman strike of 1894, when Presi-
dent Grover Cleveland sent the National Guard into
Illinois over the vociferous protests of Gov. John
IT SEEMS THAT OUR system of checks does very
well at balancing the power when there is no power
to be balanced. However, it would be difficult to con-
test the statement that when the power struggle be-
gins, it has been the history of the U.S. government
to completely disregard written as well as moral law.
IN A BROADER SENSE, he said, the proposal rep-
resents "another step in redressing the balance of In future, we may start thinking of the bank, rather
power between the executive branch and Congress in than our system of government, when the term
the field of foreign policy:" "checks and balances is uttered.
"They don't want to get out of Watts. They like Watts. It's a nice
THE STORY is introduced in the Rifleman, house organ of
the National Rifle Association:
"How many rounds should you be able to fire through
an ordinary handgun, fresh from the factory, without
trouble or malfunction? How many from a cheaper one?
From a deluxe model?
"When does a potentially defective handgun tend to
become a real risk to the shooter or those around him? And
in what ways?
"To learn the answers to those questions and more,
the U.S. government this spring began the broadest, most
intensive research into handgun performance ever con-
ducted in this country, or, probably, in the world. It con-
tracted with a private, impartial research agency, the H. P.
White Laboratory, Bel Air, Md., to do a $134,000 research
program involving exacting tests on 116 handguns, possibly
with more to come."
As the testing program reached its halfway point, according
to this report, "certain trends began to assert themselves." With
inescapable national pride, the Rifleman noted that "most
America-made center-fire handguns tested thus far, especially
the most powerful ones, have demonstrated superior safety and
endurance factors" while "many of the foreign-made handguns
... revealed defects or failed outright."
Overall the survey so far seems to offer reassurance for gun
users, if not for their victims: "Not all the causes of break-
downs constituted dangerous failures menacing to the shooter,
nor were all beyond remedy." But those who are shot are too often
The article carried a rather moving headline: "Handgun
Torture Tests: How Much Can They Endure?"
ONE MIGHT DETECT elements of entertainment in this
concern for the health and welfare of handguns if less deadly
business were involved. But the toll of handgun murder is too
high to be treated under the heading of fun and games.
There is no more wretched hypocrisy than Attorney General
Mitchell's insistence that any tighter federal gun-controls should
be put aside until there is further experimentation by states
and localities. He knows that the Gun Control Act of 1968 has
proved hopelessly inadequate; Carl Bakal, a leading investigator
of the gun industry, wrote recently in the Saturday Review:
"In fact, during recent years, there has been a sharp in-
crease in the sale of guns and particularly handguns which,
though comprising only about a quarter of the roughly 90,000,000
privately owned firearms thought to be in this country ... now
account for half of all our homicides and three-quarters of all
As Bakal also noted, while the sale of shotguns and rifles has
doubled since 1963, the sale of handguns - "few of which are
usable for sporting purposes" - has quadrupled.
THERE ARE NOW 24 million handguns in private hands in
the U.S., Bakal wrote; an additional two-and-a-half million are
being manufactured domestically or imported every year.
"Today one new handgun is sold in the U.S. every 13
seconds," he added.
Against those figures, even so strict a statute as the one now
prevailing in New York City is a poor defense; the gun traffic, in
Mayor Lindsay's words, "cuts across state and city boundaries."
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Abner Mikva
(D-Ill.) have been vainly pressing for measures that would de-
cisively curtail the handgun merchants and require the registra-
tion of all gun owners. But they have encountered only hostility
at the White House; Defense Secretary Laird's office has become
an unofficial headquarters for the gun lobby. And who is "soft"
Now what appeared to be criminal negligence - or abject
capitulation to the gun manufacturers - is compounded by
the revelation that the government is using federal funds to
subsidize research for the handgun men. The Administration's
"war on crime" remains a spurious war of words in the crucial
area of domestic weapons; in real life crimebusters Nixon and
Mitchell are helping to transform the tense cities of America
into armed camps. This is a strange way to "support your local
police officers" and end "permissiveness for criminals."