San Antonio in the old days (yes, even before *I* was born, Thank You) was know for it’s rough and tumble nature; starting from being a frontier outpost in Mexico through the Battle of the Alamo through the times all those great old John Wayne movies highlight. In recent times San Antonio if more well known for it’s tourism industry and it’s Healthcare facilities, which are second to none in quality and in the top five in the nation for any metroplex.
So, in an odd confluence of the two, it appears that the battle over the Healthcare Bill may be decided by . . . a 1990’s San Antonio Gun Control case, of all things!
WASHINGTON — A San Antonio high school senior’s decision to bring a .38 caliber handgun to class in 1992 could end up at the center of the coming legal fight over President Barack Obama’s health reform plan.
Alfonso Lopez Jr.’s arrest at Edison High School set in motion a courtroom battle that is likely to be studied by the 13 state attorneys general fighting the new health care law. Lopez, a high school senior when he was arrested on a handgun possession charge in March 1992, ended up facing federal charges of violating the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990.
But the Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, threw out his conviction in 1995 on the ground that Congress exceeded its regulatory authority under the Constitution when it approved the 1990 law, which made it a violation of federal law to possess a firearm in a school zone.
In filing a lawsuit last week challenging the new health care law’s mandate that everyone must have health insurance, the 13 state attorneys general cited the same legal reasoning that went into the high court’s Lopez ruling.
At issue in both cases is the Constitution’s commerce clause, which limits the regulatory powers of Congress to matters involving interstate commerce. The attorneys general argue that Congress exceeded that limit by requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.
In the Lopez decision, conservatives on the court led by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist ruled the 1990 gun law unconstitutional because it had nothing to do with commerce between states. The 13 attorney generals contend, similarly, that the health care mandate does not fit within the legal definition of interstate commerce.
“In the past 15 years the Supreme Court has scaled back Congress when they’ve tried to inject themselves into purely state matters,” said one of the 13 plaintiffs, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, in an interview on MSNBC. The Lopez ruling was one of two he cited, saying it was a case where the federal government “tried to criminalize purely state behavior within a state.”
The attorneys general also argue that the health care law’s insurance mandate for individuals violates the 10th Amendment, which states that powers not specifically delegated to Congress by the Constitution are “reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
The health care law’s mandate extends congressional power under the Constitution “beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity,” Randy Barnett, a Georgetown University law professor, wrote in the Washington Post. “That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company.”
Considering the high support the Healthcare bill has right now on the predominantly Hispanic west and south sides of San Antonio, Alfonso Lopez Jr. could very well find himself an unpopular person if this works.