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What if Obama's healthcare law required every American to buy a gun? How'd you feel about that?

Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli Ken Cuccinelli has not been a well-known public figure -- until now.

He's the attorney general of Virginia, who wasn't given much chance of succeeding in his lonely legal challenge to President Obama's beloved healthcare legislation designed to change whatever you believe in on that subject.

But then, oops, Federal District Judge Henry Hudson on Monday agreed with the Virginia AG, declaring a crucial part of the law unconstitutional. Full details here, including the opinion's complete text.

Cuccinelli's victory which, of course, the Democratic administration will appeal, is but one of several legal challenges to the measure  wending their way through the nation's arcane legal system. Arguments resume in a similar federal case in Florida on Thursday. Nothing will be finally resolved until the Supreme Court gets it, accepts it, decides it and a lot of lawyers' financial health benefits.

So in the intervening months, possibly years, we're left with plenty to argue over as both sides seek to make their case to the jury of public opinion.

Cuccinelli did that Tuesday with an unexpected but convincing argument.The issue that persuaded Judge Hudson was the federal government's use of the famous commerce clause to extend its authority into every family in every state by requiring every citizen to buy health insurance.

Here's how the judge put it in a powerful historical footnote: "Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause power to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market."


 Speaking today on CBS' "Washington Unplugged" with Bob Schieffer, here's how Cuccinelli put it:


"Never before in our history has the federal government ordered Americans to buy a product under the guise of regulating commerce. Imagine if this bill were that in order to protect our communities and homeland security, every American had to buy a gun. Can you imagine the reaction across the country to that?"

Yes, we can.

Lock and load for a long fight, folks. Check out Cuccinelli's full answer on the video.

-- Andrew Malcolm

The Obama heathcare law contains a little-known provision requiring every American to click here to for Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available here on Kindle now. Feel free to share this item with friends and family with the ReTweet buttons below.

Photo: Steve Helber / Associated Press (Cuccinelli).


Comments () | Archives (83)

The comments to this entry are closed.

They never really think these things through, huh?

Interesting comment about requiring gun ownership. My son resides in Kennesaw, Ga - a suburb of Atlanta. He is required to own a gun by the city.

"Imagine if this bill were that in order to protect our communities and homeland security, every American had to buy a gun. "

Yes I can, the crime rate would drop like a stone.

I am comfortable with the literal statement in the Constitution that I have the right to keep and bear arms, and that right will not be infringed. I have a real problem with a politician or bureaucrat telling me I have to purchase a weapon. I am their boss. I am not a biomechanial toy for them to manipulate.

It is a shame that Americans are fighting over this still. I was brought up in the US from the age of 5 to 14 then left the US for Australia in 1972. One thing that worried my parents was health care.

My parents said that everything in the US is all about money, if you don't have it, you are a nobody and that relates to health care for sure.

Now 38 years later it is still the same rate race but worse and it sickens me that something so worthwhile as universal health care is something to be targeted and trashed.

It always amused me that they call it 'socialised medicine' to somehow make it sound sinister and communistic.

I suppose you could say you have a 'socialised nuclear arsenal' too. No American should be expected to pay for their own Nukes, it is a shared expense through government. Really take the socialistic bogey man out of the picture, it is irrelevant but seems somehow to have been spliced into the American DNA.

I really feel sorry for the USA they seem to have lost their way in so many ways. The same people who oppose health care reform are the same idiots (Republicans) who think less tax and the resulting massive deficits are acceptable. It just amazes me that anyone there buys this stuff. I wouldn't be suprised if that pin head moose hunter from Alaska is your next President. If that happened I would alternate between tears of sorrow and laughter for some time to come.

If REQUIRING everyone (including libratards) to own a hand gun were part of OBAMACARE,..

I would say it would be the ONLY sensible thing in the whole boondoggle.

Health-care should be a PUBLIC SERVICE, not a FOR PROFIT business.

I've been to one picnic, two worlds fairs and a rodeo and this is the stupidest "political commentary" I have ever read.

Grant, why don't you go back to Australia then if you prefer it there? Americans like America the way it is. Nothing against Australia, it's a great country, you crossed the line when you came here as a foreigner and trashed our country. Learn some manners.

Grant, glad you are no longer here in the USA. It is scumbags like you that have runined this country, please, stay out and mind you own business.


Are you still in Australia?

If so, please shut up. Idiots (liberals and progressive types) seem to think it's A-okay to force people to buy things and to not allow them to buy other things.

You're all for control over the individual. Americans are for individual control.

That's what's in our DNA.

Keep your pin-head, failed, soft-core communism and peddle it elsewhere. We ain't buying the crap you're selling. Everyone else is reversing course as quick as possible from socialism, but because you have an idealistic (and unrealistic) spark in your head over what we should do the US should plunge headlong into this failed backwater idea and away from the very system that made us powerful?

Your comments are illogical, unwelcome, and childish. Please, stay involved in your own politics, and out of ours.

Sounds good to me all Americans should be ready to protect America from the Government. The founding fathers were truly visionaries

To Grant;

It amazes ME that there are still people out there who will take a group of people, political or otherwise, and label them 'stupid' because you don't agree with what 'they' think.

At least it would be CONSTITUTIONAL.

It seems that everyone in Washington DC should be run out of town. "Pork" in the tax bill, all the showcasing and yet the people are yet to be heard?!
On this one issue, thank God, a judge did hear the people and I certainly hope many others will also. The people will take back our country and the politicians can all go. We need to clean house some more!@

The comparison of paying for military power with mandating health care insurance for all is not analogous. Providing for security of the country is allowed by the constitution, in fact is the responsibility of the government. Nowhere in the constitution does it allow the government to force someone to do something. I love it when folks from other countries, such as Australia, one of our great allies, try to compare their government and the United States. Other countries will never quite understand the uniqueness of our constitution and the freedoms guranteed by it for the citizens against a tyrannical and oppressive government. If we want to change the constitution to allow the government to mandate health insurance, there is a method to do that also. Why is this so hard for people to understand?

Well, Grant at 12:48 a.m., you certainly covered the bases:
-your parents' decision to leave the U.S. for Australia
-a fact-free opinion about the character of American society
-an unsupported assertion about universal health care ("something so worthwhile")
-an odd analogy to a "socialised nuclear arsenal"
-condenscension and pity for the U.S.
-partisan name-calling ("idiot Republicans")
-a carictured description of economic theory and practice ("less tax and resulting massive deficits")
-and to top it off, you somehow feel the need to bring Sarah Palin into the picture for a gratuituos insult?

A fine collection of personal details, non sequiturs, ad hominem insults, question begging, and weird irrelevancies...maybe there's a coherent argument in there somewhere...but what does any of it have to with the constitutionality of ObamaCare?

Dear Grant,

Please stay in Australia.


United States of America

I have health insurance and guns. What are we arguing about? Now if they make me buy an electric car, that will be something…

If I already have a gun can I keep it? Or do I have to buy a Government one?

I think the point that Ken Cuccinelli is trying to make is that the same liberals that want to make everyone buy health insurance also want to prevent everyone from owning a gun. It is not a confusing statement when you consider who the target audience of the program he was on is.

How can anyone compare owning a gun to having healthcare? No relativity at all, almost like comparing buying automobile insurance to having to buy a pet rat. How stupid is this going to get. Leave it up to the rethuglians/tea baggers, the parties of no solutions other than to say "NO" to come up with this gem.

Interestingly, the Federal government has the ability to require gun ownership (and likely training); it has done just that in founding-era legislation known as the Militia Act of 1792.

I think a similar requirement may be more like those that require us to have a driver's license and have auto insurance. If we drive, then if the government can make us buy auto insurance for our protection, then is it really a big stretch to mandate health insurance - again, for our protection ?? Just saying...

I find the argument that people couldn't be required to purchase health insurance strange. People have to buy car insurance if they operate a motor vehicle for many good reasons. I would imagine that a lot of the same reasons could be used to support this kind mandate for health insurance. For example, if you end up in the hospital without health insurance you may cost the system a significant amount of money without having contributed to it.

@Grant. Maybe we need a "universal food" program. Let's also make that a "shared expense" as you put it. Maybe universal clothing. Or universal dentistry. Or universal electric power. Or universal shelter. Or universal transportation to work.

Surely all of these are just as essential as health care, right?

Someone mentioned the Militia Act of 1792 as requiring ownership of a firearm. That's technically true, but it doesn't match the description in the article, "Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause power..". The Militia Act was enacted under Congress's power to raise armies. not under the authority of the Interstate Commerce Clause.

The confusion about why we can be mandated to purchase auto insurance but not health insurance rests on an ignorance on our federalist system of government. Auto insurance is a mandate of the states, the ObamaCare requirement of health insurance is a mandate of the feds. The federal government is a government of limited, enumerated powers as defined in the US Constitution and its Amendments. The states have far broader general "police powers" than do the feds--that's one reason the states, rather than the feds, manage auto insurance issues. Indeed, the states can in fact require the purchase of health insurance, just come to Massachusetts where I live.

@Susan Lucci and others...The comments about the requirement to buy auto insurance and have driver's licenses are not the same as the healthcare issue. The ability to drive is a privilege and not a right, nto everyone is required to get a license and/or insurance. Only those who CHOOSE to drive must then follow the laws and guidelines to do the same.

People who argue that mandatory health insurance is comparable to mandatory auto insurance show that they know nothing about law or insurance. Mandatory auto insurance is required by states; mandatory health insurance is being mandated by the federal government, thus implicating the Constitution. Mandatory auto insurance requires one to have THIRD-PARTY (that is, liability) insurance to protect OTHERS from one's use of a vehicle on PUBLIC roads. You are not required to have FIRST-PARTY (e.g., collision) insurance on your car. By contrast, mandatory health insurance requires one to have FIRST-PARTY insurance, that is, insurance on your own body. Those are just two big reasons why it is inane to say, "If the government can make you by auto insurance they can make you by health insurance." Different governments, and fundamentally different types of insurance.

Yes commenters, it's just like car insurance; which everyone must have.

Oh, if you don't drive you don't have to have it?

Well, all drivers must have coverage for damage to their car. Oh, we only require insurance for damage to other people's property, full coverage isn't mandated?

And many state sallow you to opt out if you can prove you have sufficient funds to cover damages out of pocket? So you can avoid this altogether if you're rich enough?

So we require people who want to use a vehicle that could do significant damage to other people's property to insure or prove they can pay for this possible damage... but we don't require them to insure their own property.

Therefore we should require them to insure their own health; because that's exactly the same... or something.

Guys, arguments are like analogies... in that you're apparently bad at both of them.

If the government can make you buy something you don't want to buy, what can't make you do?

If the interstate commerce clause reaches so far as to touch on somehting you haven't done but are required to do, what does it not reach?

Can the interstate commerce clause be used to require US women under 35 to have a child--or two- to maintain the population growth needed to assure our future military soldiers and consumers?

After all, its likely that american women will need social security in their lifetime and we need new generations of consumers to pay the social security taxes to support you.

Opting out of having kids is not fair--you're freeloading on people that have children. Su ought to pay a tax, like people that won't buy insurance under the new law.

If your only response is to say "that will never happen," then I assume you just don't think that power will be used in a way you don't like.

The comparison to auto insurance is a false one that I hear all the time. We are required to purchase auto insurance IF we choose to drive. You can choose not to drive and not have auto insurance. Auto insurance is required to protect other people (like the people who might suffer injury or property loss in an accident that you cause), while health insurance protects the policy-holder. Moreover, auto insurance covers catastrophic loss, but not the day-to-day maintenance of the car.

Finally, auto insurance is required by the state, and not the federal government. There is a huge difference here. States can make health insurance requirements (see Massachusetts), however, a health insurance mandate is beyond the powers of the federal government as laid out in the constitution.

Good comments, Julia, regarding auto insurance vis-a-vis Obamacare.
As to what's-his-name Aussie's comment about lower taxes and higher deficits -- they occur because Congress keeps mandating spending -- like, um, Obamacare -- above and beyond the extra revenue lower taxes generate. You CAN look it up: EVERY SINGLE TIME the federal government lowers taxes, tax collections spike because of increased economic activity. EVERY TIME!!! What we've been unable to accomplish, so far, is to shut down things like this health-care boondoggle, which spends ALL the extra boodle, PLUS SOME.
By the way, can you name an Australian, Canadian or British celebrity (not to mention, ahem, Saudi or Arab) who's come to the U.S for its superior health care? Sure you can -- and it's NOT because it's bad.

Health-care should be a PUBLIC SERVICE, not a FOR PROFIT business.

Posted by: Jon | December 15, 2010 at 06:01 AM

Do you really want your doctor to be as incompetent and corrupt as an average congressman or a DMV clerk? Think before you say. But then again, you must be a liberal, so it does not apply

Good grief! I think that the Comments here actually represent exactly the point the AG is making.

His specific legal point is that the Commerce Clause has never before been interpreted to require individuals to buy a product - indescriminant of any other factor!

It isn't the same as buying car insurance in order to drive - you can chose not to drive, you can walk or ride a bicycle which don't require that.

It isn't the same as having to pay into Social Security as that isn't a purchase - it a deferal and it is a service (of dubious nature) provided by the government, meaning you get back what you pay in.

He is saying that literally for no reason other than that you are a legal resident you are forced to buy a product. It doesn't matter why! The same argument could be used to be forced to buy hair spray or GM cars (as a way of paying off the government subsidy for the greater good) or ... in this example firearms.

As a conservative and a pro - firearms person I would never support a government that forced the populace to purchase firearms. Our right to them may not be infringed, but that is an implied right to choose.

Of course it is an over interpretation of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. You can't predicate "existence" as a reason for requiring someone to buy a private product. Oh, but what if it is a government service and treated as Social Security? Well, again you run into Constitutional issues because there is no clause in the Constitution or the Bill or Rights that grant the Federal Government power to take over an industry of that sort.

First of all, the mandate is not "Obama's healthcare law". It was language that the REPUBLICANS insisted on being part of health care reform. Obama was actually opposed to the mandate, and wanted a public option (which he didn't fight for, and caved in on way too easily, but that's another gripe entirely).

So all the Republicans doing their best "nyah nyah boo boo! Obama's making you buy insurance!" taunt are just being disingenuous idiots. Requiring Americans to buy insurance was always something that the Republicans pushed for at the behest of the insurance companies. Clinton supported it as a means of passing health care reform. Obama opposed it.

So really, the question should be "What if the Republicans' healthcare law required every American to buy a gun? How'd you feel about that?"

And the answer is: The two are not even nearly related.

For the record, as someone who doesn't have a very big paycheck, and no insurance coverage from my employer, I am completely opposed to being forced to BUY insurance from an insurance company. Here's the deal: I pay taxes.

I pay taxes to improve community security by funding police and the military.
I pay taxes to improve the quality of life in my community by funding air and water sanitation.
I pay taxes to improve the safety of my community by funding firefighters and road upkeep.
I pay taxes to safeguard the health of my community by funding the CDC and EPA.
I pay taxes to keep the wheels of progress turning by paying the salaries of my elected officials and all government workers.

Taxes are for making our community better. That's the point of paying taxes.

So why the hell can I not pay taxes to make my community better by granting everyone access to health care, thus preventing the spread of diseases, keeping people healthy enough to work and be productive?

Next time you catch influenza (or worse), ask yourself: "Could I have avoided catching this bug if the person who gave it to me had access to health care?"

I happily pay my taxes, and I get my dollar's worth, I think. My roads are OK, my water is clean, and my community is patrolled by cops who deter crime. It would be better if I could pay taxes and know that people are able to seek medical attention when it is needed. I would feel better knowing it's there for anyone who needs it.

We are judged by how we treat the least among us. Those who would deny our nation universal health care are more concerned with their own greed than the well-being of this nation.

If universal health care is socialist, then so are your roads, cops, firefighters, soldiers, and sewers.

1. Auto insurance mandate !

Under historical interpretations of the Constitution, Congress can dictate the economic activity of citizens so long as that activity will have profound, large-scale effects on the national economy.
2. Health insurance protects you PLUS all !
** Inaction cost, $9trillion over the next decade, ((Some of CBO analysis : While the costs of the financial bailouts and economic stimulus bills are staggering, they are only a fraction of the coming costs from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that each year Medicaid will expand by 7 percent, Medicare by 6 percent, and Social Security by 5 percent. These programs face a 75-year shortfall of $43 trillion--60 times greater than the gross cost of the $700 billion TARP financial bailout)).

@ gpc31
You are a freakin' Genius. You ROCK!!

@jack frost

First, the democrats had a majority in the House, and a super majority in the Senate. If they could not pass the version of ObamaCare they really wanted, it was because they could not get all the democrats onboard

Second, most of those taxes you are paying to make you "community" better are paid at the local level - city, county, state. As previously mentioned, they have much greater authority than the Federal Government. The Constitution was put in place to protect the States and individual from an overreaching central government. If the Commerce Clause is used to justify the mandate of buying health insurance is there ANY Federal active that it can't be used to justify? The LIMITED authority granted the Feds by the Constitution would become UNLIMITED.

The government does require us all to buy guns. Lots of guns. They go to the Department of Defense, the National Guard, the FBI, state and local police. We're all paying in one way or another for our shameful, 3rd world health care system, the question is how.

I read the article and several pages of comments, but no one mentioned the Militia Act of 1792 where we did just that. "In order to protect our communities and homeland security, every American had to buy a gun."

Oy. The lack of common sense comparing a health insurance mandate to a gun ownership mandate is mind boggling.

If my lack of gun ownership directly effected the cost to American taxpayers by 40 billion dollars per year, then yes the government should find a way to step in and that is exactly what they did.

If you choose to not purchase insurance, you still have access to healthcare in certain situations. Federal and State taxes account for over 40 billion dollars per year to pay for uninsured care. Your insurance is more expensive because the private companies have to pay into these costs as well.

The uninsured have an ENORMOUS impact on health insurance commerce.

That is exactly why the commerce clause was cerated. States not participating would kill the plan and the uninsured would continue to be a part of the exponential cost increases for healthcare. That is why the federal government needs to (and has the power to) step in. I am glad that the supreme court will have to rule on this.

I understand people will be frustrated that they have to either buy insurance or pay a tax ... but your other option is to live in a country where they turn you people way at a hospital because you can't prove you have insurance first.

We all have access to healthcare. Why should we all continue to pay for people who believe they are invincible?

We actually did require every white male citizen to own a gun at one time.

Militia Act of 1792
EACH AND EVERY FREE ABLE-BODIED WHITE MALE CITIZEN of the respective States, ... shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia ... every 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 power and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and power-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a power of power;

Granted it goes back a ways, but it set a precedent of forcing an individual to privately purchase numerous items.
It lasted until 1903, when militias were replaced by the national guard and it was signed by George Washington.

So, it has precedent, that was signed by a founding father, and lasted for almost half the time the US has existed. What's their argument again?

I'd feel much safer.
As it stands, only criminals have a real incentive to own a gun.
I'd much rather that they be outnumbered by law-abiding people with guns.
The fear of death might encourage some criminals to take up honest work.

democrats never had a supermajority, they only ever had 59 democrats. Even when they had 60 democratic senate members, Kennedy was in the hospital. They had one former democrat independent. And if they really had over 60, the republicans still could have filibustered, which would have ate through more time and democrats would have got less done than they did.

In Pennsylvania, every person who drives is required to buy auto insurance. What the heck is the difference?

(AM responds: 1) That's an individual state requirement, not federal. 2) It's voluntary. You want to drive, you buy insurance. You don't drive, no need to buy insurance. Nothing voluntary about the new health requirement. You breathe, you buy.)

Easy to fix. Just call it a tax instead of a penalty. You can get out of paying the special health care tax if buy your own health insurance coverage. Taxes are legal, and so are deductions. Congress should just fix the law so that it is does not violate the constitution, and then re-pass it. Oh, that's right, largely because the public does not want Obama-care, its supporters no longer have the majorities it would need in Congress to pass it again. That's the only reason why this constitutional challenge is so deadly.

What about all those people who have suffered from the recession? Remember? The ones who lost Their jobs and homes because of it ? Including myself who still cant find work and facing forecloser and extreme dept because of it ? Now the our Gov. wants to make a law requiring me to have health care or get TAXED or Jailed ? When I CANT AFFord to eat. Because of our Gov screw ups causing the recession to begin with.This is the begining of a new world order people ! One goverment.One dollar.Our freedom is gone! I will die before I let Gov take my rights ! Decloration of independence no longer exist. Watch jesse ventura Im a huge fan of that show. Maybe we should colonize and start our own gov. Of anti gov. Obama has to go along with all his fans and like partners in crime,

It's funny that Cuccinelli so frequently cites the will of the founding fathers and then protests individual mandates. If he knew about the founding fathers, he would remember the Militia Act of 1790 which required every American to own a gun, ammunition, and powder in order to protect our homeland security. Note that George Washington signed the bill into law. If our most revered president could sign individual mandates into law, why should our current president not be allowed to?

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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