In an interview with CBS News today, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) claimed that the Affordable Care Act must be unconstitutional for the same reason that Congress could not require people to buy guns:
Never before in our history has the federal government ordered Americans to buy a product under the guise of regulating commerce. Imagine, Bob, if this bill were that in order to protect our communities and homeland security, every American had to buy a gun. Can you image the reaction across the country to that? Well, the truth of the matter is, the same legal power is at stake in ordering us to buy health insurance.
Cuccinelli’s comparison between health care and guns is unfortunate, since it reveals his utter ignorance of American legal history. Indeed, rather than trying to “imagine” what the reaction to such a hypothetical law might be, Cuccinelli could learn exactly what America’s reaction was to an actual law simply by picking up a history book. As it turns out, President George Washington signed a law that was almost identical to the one Cuccinelli railed against on CBS:
[E]very citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack.
Sadly, this failure to familiarize himself with an important historical fact is par for the course for Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli’s original legal brief challenging the Affordable Care Act was riddled with legal errors, including an embarrassing claim that the Boston Tea Party somehow renders health reform unconstitutional. Likewise, Cuccinelli still refuses to drop a witchhunt against a leading climate-change scientist despite the fact that his office’s own incompetence already got him tossed out of court once.