Real solutions for curbing gun violence

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," February 24, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time to make our schools a much harder target. When we declare our schools to be gun free zones, it just puts our students in far more danger, but we really do have to strengthen up, really strengthen up background checks. We don't want people that are mentally ill to be having any form of weaponry.


GIGOT: Welcome to the Journal Editorial Report. I'm Paul Gigot. That was President Trump Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference calling for steps to bolster school security and curve gun violence in the wake of last week's deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida. The president who held listening sessions this week with students, parents and teachers affected by school shootings as well as with state and local leaders and members of law enforcement appears to be considering several options to address mass shootings, some of which could set him on a collision course not just with Democrats, but with members of his own party in Congress.

Let's bring in Wall Street Journal columnist and Deputy Editor Dan Henninger and columnist Kim Strassel and Bill McGurn. So Kim, you wrote a column this week saying that Republicans are maybe going a little too far in some of their gun control measures, but let's start with whether or not this event in Florida has really changed fundamentally the politics of gun control.

KIM STRASSEL, WALL STREET JOURNAL COLUMNIST: Well, I think that it has to a certain degree in that, I mean, it's another horrific shooting, but it also added some new elements to the discussion in that, you know, what we're seeing down there was a total breakdown at every level of government and doing the right thing.

The FBI was tipped off about this. The Broward County Police Department heard about this kid 23 separate times. Social Services did nothing. Now we find out that the deputy was sitting outside even though he was armed and trained, he did not intervene. And so there's an institutional question that's been added here, but also Democrats are, again, doubling down on their gun control. And I think people feel something has to change.

GIGOT: Well, but that's the point, Kim. Something has to change. The kids in Parkland are making a huge issue. They marched on Tallahassee in Florida, it seems to be having an impact on the Republicans there. It seems to be having an impact on Donald Trump. Are Republicans going to have to do something?

STRASSEL: Well, they've got some good ideas, like fixing the national instant criminal background check system, making that database stronger. And they're talking more about mental health. Those are the best things that we can do from an immediate perspective. I think unfortunately, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio also decided that they were going to go down the path and now you hear them talking about raising the age limit for buying guns, potentially banning large capacity magazines. These are not things that are going to help and I think a lot of Republicans won't go along with that.

GIGOT: Dan, what do you make of the politics here?

DAN HENNINGER, WALL STREET JOURNEY, DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, I don't think it's a fundamental turn, but it is obviously a turn in the sense that there is this overwhelming desire now to do something about all of this. The politics are very strong in that direction.

GIGOT: It's horrific. I mean, you know, you want your children to be safe. That's the fundamental political impetus here.

HENNINGER: Yeah. But on the gun control side, you've got people who want to take measures such as increasing registration and background checks. On the other hand you have Democrats who, at the end of the day, want bans on certain kinds of guns such as semi-automatic rifles. As soon as you raise the word ban, you also raise the Second Amendment and Republicans fall off the train of doing anything about gun control. So there's that issue. And once the Democrats start pushing bans, the issue falls apart.

The other one that Kim mentioned is mental health. Look, in virtually all of these shootings, whether it was in Florida, Newtown, Aurora, University of West Virginia, every one of the shooters was severely mentally ill. And Donald Trump mentioned that in the CPAC speech. He has talked about this, but that is basically off the table of Congress's concerns, that's not in the middle of the argument we're having right now.

Washington Post did a poll on this just the past week, 77 percent respondents said mental illness was the primary cause of the shootings.

GIGOT: Bill?

BILL MCGURN; WALL STREET JOURNAL, COLUMNIST: Yeah. I think mental illness is a big part of it, but it's not -- it's not the only part. Politically, the Republicans are in a position because it's a Republican Congress and Republican president to do something. I'm very -- I'm not a gun owner. I have no desire to own a gun, but apart from the constitutional issues which I think are very strong, I think there's just a practical issue. There are 300 million guns I believe out in America and there're 8.5 million boys in high school and we're going to trust the federal government to sift through all of this, identify the people or the weapons that are going to be used in a mass shooting?

You know, I think before we could have, do something that meant something, we need to have a rationale debate and if you look at what happened on CNN the other night, you know, the two-minute hate from Marco Rubio and the woman from the NRA, this is not the path to a sane solution.

GIGOT: But you aren't arguing a council of despair, are you where you're just basically saying nothing we do will actually make a difference?

MCGURN: No, but I think that's -- I think that's a canard, people say, I saw, I think it was Geraldo Rivera, so you're for do nothing. Well no, I think -- I think it's reasonable to demand evidence that what you do will have the effect that you claim it will have. And there's clearly a move, it's not just bans on guns, people want confiscation. They invoke Australia all the time and Australia confiscated a lot of weapons, right? And even there, it's not clear, they didn't have that many mass shooting before.

HENNINGER: This is one of the main points, look, let's say we get a bill through Congress, raises the age of 21 for buying guns, eliminates bump stocks, strengthens registrations, strengthens background checks, becomes federal law, two years later we have another shooting.


HENNINGER: Are we back at the same scenario?

GIGOT: We are, we will be absolutely, there's no question about that. But Kim, politically, why -- the House passed a bill as you know that included a couple of these things, the better -- closed one of these background check loopholes, but they paired it with a law that is a priority of the National Rifle Association which is reciprocal concealed carry. This is -- this means that if you have a concealed carry weapons permit in Texas, you can go to New York City which is very hard to get a gun and still carry there.

Why not shouldn't Republicans just drop that provision and put out the stuff they know can pass?

STRASSEL: They should politically, because otherwise they risk looking cynical here. Because this Fix NICS Bill which goes to the background check thing has widespread support among Republicans and Democrats, it would sail through the House and sail through the Senate. And by attaching this other provision which the Democrats in the Senate are likely to kill, you put at risk the background check bill.

The other way they can do it is put both of them on that floor separately, send them to the Senate and let the Senate Democrats take responsibility for killing what, you know, is an interesting piece of legislation and probably would help some with gun crime too.

GIGOT: All right, thank you all. We'll be talking about this for a while. Still ahead, a partisan divide over gun control, are there some solutions for curtailing gun violence that both sides can agree on?


GIGOT: Amid the fallout from last week's school shooting in Parkland and the partisan divide over gun control, my next guest says there are concrete ways to reduce gun violence in the US that both sides just might be able to agree on. John Carlson is a host on KVI Radio in Seattle. He was a co- author of Washington State's Three Strikes and You're Out and Hard Time for Armed Crime ballot initiatives. Mr. Carlson, welcome, great to see you.


GIGOT: So you argued in our pages this week that the thing to focus is, of the law, enforcing the laws we already have because most gun crimes are committed with illegal guns. What are the facts to back that up?

CARLSON: Yeah. Fundamentally speaking, we have sudden mass shootings, like in Florida, and then we have slow-motion mass shootings like in, you know, 20 people shot dead in Chicago, which is an improvement over last year here in the month of January. And the overwhelming number of guns used in the commission of these crimes are illegally obtained. What we need to do in this country, Paul, is not declare a war on certain types of guns or accessories, we do need to declare a war on illegal guns, guns that are stolen, guns that are stolen and sold or smuggled and sold, guns from straw purchases which is where someone who is allowed legally to buy a gun does so and then turns the gun over to someone else usually at a huge profit who cannot buy a gun.

If we focus.

GIGOT: All right, but here.


GIGOT: Okay, you want to focus on that and that's a fair point and an interesting one. But if these statutes are already on the books, okay, they're crimes, why aren't we enforcing them now?

CARLSON: Because they're not high priorities. The federal law against straw purchases has a 10-year penalty, up to 10 years, but it is a low federal priority. The president and Attorney General Sessions can change that immediately if they want to and I hope they will want to. So that's one area where we need to stigmatize not firearms, but illegal firearms. We need to ratchet up the penalties on people who steal guns and who sell them.

GIGOT: All right, but if you're a gang banger in Chicago and we know that most of the murders in Chicago, all of or much of Chicago are done by gang members. Are you really going to be deterred from getting an illegal gun or getting your buddy who is not banned because he doesn't have a criminal record yet from buying a gun and giving it to you? I mean I just don't see that being a large deterrent.

CARLSON: If the penalty -- let's say you are stopped and patted down, if the penalty for an illegal gun is four years mandatory, then yes, I think you're going to be deterred. That's what is not in the law is deterrence. But if you deter people from carrying illegal guns or acquiring illegal guns, then yes, you'll see the supply dry up, the supply dries up and criminals have trouble getting guns, which they don't have trouble getting right now.

GIGOT: Okay.

CARLSON: The second issue is, of course, mentally ill people acquiring firearms.

GIGOT: Right, I think everybody can agree on -- everybody can agree, we'd like to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. The problem that I see and we've been talking about these for many years is state laws that make it -- many state laws make it very hard to intervene, even somebody who looks like they are a threat.


GIGOT: And either, you know, forcing them to get on their medication, hospitalizing them, much less taking a gun out of their hands.

CARLSON: This is especially true in my state of Washington where you have to be an imminent threat, meaning at that moment. Those state laws I hope will change, but they could use a nudge from the federal government. I believe the president should convene a taskforce, law enforcement should be on that taskforce, representatives of people who are developmentally disabled, victims of crime, et cetera and the sole purpose of this taskforce should be to draw a line at allowing authorities to preemptively deny some mentally ill people from legally acquiring a weapon.

Kim was right, not all people who get AR-15s or other rifles or pistols acquire them legally. Adam Lanza, the Newtown Connecticut shooter, killed his mother and stole her rifle.

GIGOT: Right.

CARLSON: But you can make it harder for them to do so, because for every one of these mass shootings that is publicized nationally, a whole lot of them are happening locally that you don't hear much about. And again, they almost always involve mentally ill people who manage to legally acquire a weapon. We need to draw a line. And it's not going to be easy to do. There's lots of pitfalls, lots of obstacles in the way, constitutional, social and other obstacles, but I think it has to be done because it's interesting, everyone agrees, President Trump, the Democratic Party, the NRA, the school protesters agree that the shooter in Parkland should not have been allowed to have a gun, and yet instead of saying how do we work together to keep that from happening as you saw on the other night on the town hall, all we heard was name calling, yelling and swearing.

GIGOT: Well, we have to start the conversation. John Carlson, thank you for being here. It's good to have you.

CARLSON: Thank you.

GIGOT: Still ahead, the Trump administration announcing new sanctions against North Korea, in a bid that turn out the heat on Pyongyang over its nuclear program. So will it work?


GIGOT: The Trump administration announcing new sanctions against North Korea Friday, hitting more than 50 vessels, shipping and trading companies in the latest bid to turn up the heat on Pyongyang over its nuclear program. We're back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel and Bill McGurn. So Dan, what do you make of these new sanctions, really do focus on shipping?

HENNINGER: They really do focus on shipping, they've sanctioned a lot of vessels that they've identified as doing transfers. They've got pictures of the North Koreans changing registration on ships, offloading material onto other ships. They've identified people in Taiwan who have been participating in this, those people will be sanctioned.

So in addition to the ones they did in January, I think it's a move in the right direction. It's a good idea. And indeed, North Korea is being squeezed, shortages of fuel, shortages of food. The question is at this point in this dilemma, is it going to make that much difference? In other words, Kim Jong Un has got his missiles, he's got the bombs, his guidance systems are getting stronger and is he going to bend to this or is he going to just gut it out another arduous year and push forward with his nuclear strategy.

GIGOT: Bill, I would argue that even on these sanctions, and I take Dan's point, I think it's the right one, the bigger question here, will they work? But on these sanctions, you're going to have to board some of these ships I think because I don't think some of these companies are going to stop and that would be a more immediate deterrent if you boarded ships. You'd say it comes from a North Korean port and confiscate it.

MCGURN: Right. I mean I'm dubious about sanctions in general unless they're against a developed country, because the whole idea is to create pressure on a regime. If you're a regime like Kim's, you're willing to let your people suffer, like you were just saying, to brute it out, because the payoff is so huge. The payoff is the ability to strike America, right? And if he has that, it's a security that he can't buy.

Look at the last guy that gave up his nukes, Gaddafi, is that an argument that would persuade Kim that this is the way to go? I mean he's playing for very, very big stakes. I'm of the view that a lot of the North Korean defectors have, that he will not give up his nukes without a military strike of some kind and that, of course, carries a terrible price. And I think we're in a game right now where Kim is playing for time and Mattis is trying to find options, to carve out more options that aren't as bloody for innocent people as a strike would be.

GIGOT: You know, Kim, one thing that stood out for me when you look at these lists, is there are some -- a couple of Chinese entities on it, but not many, not a lot and yet we really are trying to persuade China to be the main enforcer on North Korea, because unless China really becomes our partner in that endeavor, the North Koreans are always going to figure they're going to have enough loopholes. And yet the US has not really hit Chinese financial firms, Chinese businesses and Chinese practices as hard as it can under the sanctions regime.

STRASSEL: And that could be the next step though, Paul, because what's interesting to me about these sanctions is that they seemed to be designed as well to put the world on notice. They're not just listing the names of these 56 entities, but they're putting out a shipping bulletin identifying some of these flagged ships, pointing out the ways in which North Koreans hide the names of ships and use deceptive practices, ship-to-ship transfers. And so what they're saying to the world is we're serious about this and you guys as part of the United Nations, you need to help us respect this and do something.

So that's a warning shot to China as well, too. And I think that that's encouraging for those of us who believe that China really is going to be instrumental, if not the main path to something happening with North Korea in the end.

GIGOT: You know, Bill, one of the things that I think is useful about these sanctions right now is the timing because they came at the end of the Olympics in South Korea. They come two weeks after the western press fawned over the sister of Kim Jong-un as she was making a visit to South Korea and they sent a message to not just the world, but President Moon of South Korea who is dovish when it comes to the North, and wouldn't mind I think bribing North Korea to get into negotiations because he's supported that in the past. But it sends a message saying U.S. policy isn't changing here.

MCGURN: That's what Vice President Pence said when he was in Korea and got a lot of flak for it, but he's right. Look, President Moon and President Trump have very different interests. President Moon and the South Koreans have been hostages to North Korea for 60 years. They're the international equivalent of a guy with a suicide vest, you know, if you're willing to blow yourself up and take a lot of innocent people, so things haven't changed for South Korea. There's no more lethal threat in South Korea.

Vice President Pence to President Trump are now dealing there's a threat in the United States and I don't, you know -- I think looking to the South Koreans for a strong policy is very difficult. They've been hostages. They get upset when we look too strong and they get upset when we look too soft. I think America has to forge its policy.

HENNINGER: Again, the goal is denuclearization, what incentives are we going to give Kim, to either stand down, dismantle the nuclear program or try to join with South Korea. And that is still the challenge that's in front of us.

GIGOT: Still ahead, America's pastor, dead at the age of 99. We'll remember the life and legacy of the Reverend Billy Graham when we come back.


GIGOT: He was called America's pastor, the Reverend Billy Graham who preached to an estimated 215 million people in 185 countries and served as a counselor to a dozen American presidents, died Wednesday at the age of 99. Joining me now with a look back at his life and legacy is Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention. Welcome, good to see you again. So why was Billy Graham such a significant figure in American life for half a century at least?

RUSSELL MOORE, PRESIDENT OF THE ETHICS & RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION: Well, I think part of it had to do with his unique gifts. He was an amazing communicator. Part of it had to do with the fact that he had such strong conviction and that was obvious to everyone. And a part of it had to do with the rise of technology. And so Billy Graham was always several steps ahead of technological waves, so using not only radio, but television and then later in his ministry, even the internet to carry the gospel all across the world.

GIGOT: But so he used radio, he used TV, he used mass rallies. It's fascinating, but those were mass media. You mentioned even using the internet, but I wonder, what would he have done, I mean you said he used the internet, but what would he have done if in his heyday there have been social media?

MOORE: Well, that would be a very different sort of world because if one things about what television was able to do, most people were watching a very limited number of channels. Now, we have the ability for such widespread and diffuse technologies that people are very rarely actually watching the same thing. So that would be a much more difficult world to communicate the gospel in. But I believe Billy Graham would have found a way to do it.

GIGOT: Would have found a way to do it. Well it's a challenge that you have, you and other people of faith have right now. Why was he so influential, Billy Graham, with American presidents?

MOORE: I think part of the reason for Billy Graham's success is the fact that we have a world in which people would often say if you just trim your message a little bit and don't believe things that the American people will think to be strange or at least don't talk about them, talk about ways that faith generically defined can help you have a better marriage or a better family or something along those lines, that that's the way to go forward.

Billy Graham never did that. Billy Graham used those new technologies, but he kept the old message. And so he was talking about the very things that would be startling to people, not only the existence of God, but of sin, Day of Judgment, of the need to come to God through Christ and blood atonement. And so I think that was part of it, is that people knew when they were listening to Billy Graham that he wasn't trying to sell people anything.

And that was especially important when you see all of the major evangelists across the 20th century who fell due to sexual scandal or financial scandal.

GIGOT: Right.

MOORE: Billy Graham was above reproach, unimpeachable personal integrity and that was part of his appeal.

GIGOT: Do you think sometimes, and there was some criticism even in the obituaries that maybe he did sometimes get a little too close to presidents? There was the case of course with Richard Nixon where Billy Graham was heard on tapes saying things that he later apologized for. He had said those things in private. You know, politicians like to use religious figures. Did he sometimes get too close?

MOORE: He did and he said so. And what Billy Graham was able to do was to take his experience with Richard Nixon and really use that as a teaching moment for American religious figures and say this can very easily happen. People can become seduced by power, people can have personal connections, they can sometimes very unintentionally conflate the Kingdom of God with some partisan political agenda.

But noticed what Billy Graham did from Watergate forward, he was someone who was able to minister to people across the spectrum of partisan and ideological, political divides. So he was, yes, there in the White House with Richard Nixon. He was also there to pray with Bill Clinton and everyone else in between.

GIGOT: Is there a comparable figure now in American public life, religious figure who is comparable to Billy Graham's influence then or is it even possible?

MOORE: I don't think there is right now, but I don't think that's unusual. I think Billy Graham is the unusual figure. I think he's a singularly unusual figure in probably over a thousand years. I think God will raise up another Billy Graham, he or she will be a different figure in American life and maybe not an American, probably not an American.

GIGOT: Oh really, that's fascinating.

MOORE: But I don't absolutely know yet who that person is. When you think of C.S. Lewis, the great apologist of the 20th century, started out as an atheist professor. Chuck Colson started out as, by his own description, a political hatchet man and turned into the great driver of prison ministry and evangelism across the country.

So the next Billy Graham might be someone who's not even a Christian yet.

GIGOT: Fascinating to contemplate. Thank you very much for being here.

MOORE: Thanks for having me.

GIGOT: When we come back, a battle over the congressional map in Pennsylvania could make or break the Democratic efforts to take back the House this November.


GIGOT: Pennsylvania's highest court threw the Keystone State into political turmoil this week when it imposed a new congressional district map just months before the May primary. In a 5-2 ruling in January, the Supreme Court's Democratic majority threw out the congressional map adopted by the Republican legislature in 2011 deeming it an unconstitutional gerrymander. Those same justices released a new map Monday which is widely viewed as giving Democrats an edge in November as they seek to recapture control of the US House. We're back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel and Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Member Allysia Finley.

So Allysia, you've covered this for us. Why would the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania throw out a map in 2018 that was written in 2011, if it was so unconstitutional, why didn't they get to it earlier?

ALLYSIA FINLEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well what you have is liberal groups sued last year. Now that you have a Democratic governor and these are partisan elected judges, so it's actually a 5-2 Democratic majority on the State Supreme Court, so they knew that they had a winning hand on the Supreme Court when they brought this case.

GIGOT: So this was a moment about political opportunity.

FINLEY: Exactly, and a very cynical one at that. So they sued and the Supreme Court held in January that these were partisan gerrymanders that violated the state constitution guarantee of free and equal election.

GIGOT: What do you make of that argument?

FINLEY: I mean that's a ridiculous argument. That is based on like an individual's -- I mean it was basically intended so that you cannot discriminate against black people, that was the real original intent or racial indiscrimination.

GIGOT: No racial discrimination.

FINLEY: Right, and so now they're making this to be about equal representation and proportionate--

GIGOT: By political party.

FINLEY: Right, it's not even, and if you go down that road, then I think Justice Rehnquist at one point said in a case, that's, well, what's to stop equal representation by religion? How do you draw the line there?

GIGOT: All right, and this is even more important, Ann, because the Supreme Court is considering a couple of cases, one in Wisconsin, I think, Allysia, one in Maryland.

FINLEY: In Maryland.

GIGOT: That would, whether or not partisan gerrymanders of this kind are unconstitutional more broadly, and if they say that, I think we're off to the races. Every single congressional map would be challenged.

HENNINGER: Yes, Paul, and the question is, do courts want to get into that race, I mean some obviously like the court in Pennsylvania does. But is that what we want? Look, for some strange reason, humanity divides itself politically into left and right, liberals and conservatives. The dilemma of democracy is that as you divide up - and it's not just the United States, this is true all over the world. You divide up a state or a country into districts, how do you decide which members of which party should be in those districts. No one has ever come up with a good answer to that. We have the elections clause in our Constitution, which says explicitly that state legislatures are responsible for doing this. It's not a perfect process, but if the courts start intervening in this, as you say, we are off to the races, because you'll have different systems all over the country.

GIGOT: Isn't clear to me that a partisan gerrymander rendered by judges is any better than a partisan gerrymander rendered by one of the political parties.

HENNINGER: Exactly. I mean, what was the basis for the Pennsylvania court's decision? Why is that any more rational than what the legislature would have done?

FINLEY: Yes, they completely created an arbitrary standard, actually it said, well, we're going to create this standard that the districts just must be contiguous, they must be, or subdivide counties in the least number of ways. And this was nowhere in the Constitution. It just created this new standard. But you know, even acknowledged that, well, the legislature can meet this standard, but they can still be unconstitutional.

GIGOT: And the cost here, Kim, could be for the integrity of the courts, because if the courts are suddenly caught willy-nilly making decisions, political decisions over every gerrymander map, the danger is that the public is going to think that they're even more partisan and political than many people already think they are. And that really does work to undermine the integrity of the law over time.

STRASSEL: Yes, I mean, look at how nakedly partisan this is, as Allysia pointed out, the way it was set up by outside groups, the timing of when they brought this all designed, and the courts just ran with it. The Pennsylvania court did. And, you know, it's caused complete mayhem in the state as well, not only a lot of very ugly partisan sniping about this, bringing the courts in and dragging it through the mud, but it's also causing, just this is going to have ramifications in the very near future as we move into a special election that's coming up in Pennsylvania, and then obviously the midterms later this fall, which a decision like this could potentially imperil the Republican majority in the House.

GIGOT: All right, and on that point, Allysia, Larry Sabato, the analyst, changed his ratings based on this new map. He said one toss-up race, made it safe Democratic seat. Three leaning Republican seats are now toss-ups, and a safe Republican seat is now leaning Republican. That's five seats moving more towards the Democrats. It could be decisive in November.

FINLEY: Right, especially given there are 20, they need to win 24 seats. And I think where you're really going to see the difference is in the Philadelphia suburbs, which were already going to be battlegrounds, but now instead of leaning Republican, they're going to be leaning Democrat. And if you a huge wave of Democratic wins they will probably go Democrat.

GIGOT: Here's the other question, Dan. So, all right, we know that the Pennsylvania map was partisan for Republicans, OK, they took that opportunity. But the Democrats have drawn partisan maps in Illinois, they've drawn partisan maps in Massachusetts, they've drawn in California. I mean, Massachusetts doesn't even have one Republican congressman.

HENNINGER: Yes, I mean, California is a Democratic principality now. So that's why as hard as this gerrymander issue is, it's a good thing, I don't want the courts involved, but it is a good thing to raise it publicly and lean on these legislatures for not, essentially going too far. You at some point have to rely on the common sense of legislatures not to do as they did in Illinois or California.

GIGOT: All right, when we come back, all eyes are on Justice Neil Gorsuch as the Supreme Court gets set to hear oral arguments Monday in a potentially landmark labor case. So should government workers be forced to pay dues for union representation they don't want?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody asked me if I wanted to join the union, they just said here's a job, you're in the union.



GIGOT: The Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments Monday in one of the most closely-watched cases of the term. At issue, whether state and local government employees can be forced to pay union dues as a condition of their employment. The case was brought by (Mark Janus), an Illinois child welfare worker who argues that his first amendment rights are being violated by a state law that compels him to pay collective bargaining fees to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, a union that he says does not represent his values and interests. We're back with Dan Henninger, Allysia Finley, and Bill McGurn. So, Bill, the court has considered this in the past and said the unions can collect these fees. Why are they rethinking that?

MCGURN: Well, they have considered it in the past, but the last time they were about to consider it, Justice Scalia was on the court and died and probably would have gone the other way.

GIGOT: It was a four-four decision. That case was settled and nothing changed.

MCGURN: Right, and the thinking was that Justice Scalia would have waited.

GIGOT: But why, now because you're talking about at least a 40-year precedent, of the so-called Abood case, that they're now rethinking. What's changed on the court?

MCGURN: Well, I think the court is much more protective of speech rights and so forth, and what you're doing is compelling this worker to support the union activities. I think it's even if you're not, you can choose not to be in the union. But-

GIGOT: But you still have to pay fees.

MCGURN: The union are big political players and look, a lot of their political power depends on coercion, the ability to coerce these funds from people. This is under the guise, well, I represent them and he benefits from our collective bargaining. But my view is very simple. Workers should be free to join unions and organize unions, but they should also be free not to join unions and not have their money taken away from them.

GIGOT: And the argument, Allysia, is that workers should not be compelled to support speech that they don't support, or causes that they don't support, and that that is just as much a violation of the first amendment as saying you can't speak at all.

FINLEY: Right, so what they are now required in many states without right to work laws is subsidize, pay agency fees to the union regardless of whether they join the union. And they are therefore required to in collective bargaining or other ways, in organizing, unions take all kinds of public policy issues or political issues, positions, which they claim that they're not doing actually. But in fact they are political, wages, health benefits, pensions, those are all matters of public debate. And so are issues like merit pay for teachers, criminal justice policies, unions take these positions at the bargaining table. These are issues that do anticipate free speech.

HENNINGER: To Allysia's point, I mean, the unions have changed over the years. Everyone sitting out there probably says, I know what unions do. They bargain for people's wages and they bargain to protect workers' rights. So why are these public unions all of a sudden favoring in their printed material comprehensive sex education, voting rights for felons, oppression of hierarchies and things like that. I think the justices have understood that over the last 45 years, these unions are no longer just unions, they've become active political parties. In other words, the character of these unions has changed materially in that time, and so the first amendment issues become much more important, just as Mr. Janus is suggesting.

GIGOT: Is there from a legal point of view a distinction between private sector unions representing a company like Ford Motor, and public unions which represent employees of the government?

MCGURN: It's that point, further to Dan's point, we're talking about government worker unions in this, where they're guaranteed first amendment rights, it's not the same in a private sector union. I think going even further, the unions today are a huge force in political life, and I think we've said it many times in editorials, when they're negotiating with politicians, in many cases the politicians, they're the boss of the politicians.

GIGOT: They're on both sides of the bargaining table.

MCGURN: For Democrats. And they are likely to be in the position of dictating to the politicians who are supposed to make these decisions than the other way around. And it's a very pernicious influence I think in politics, to have the government workers organized like this.

GIGOT: So, how do you see this turning out, Allysia, on the court?

FINLEY: I think Gorsuch will side with the conservative majority and be in favor of first amendment rights.

GIGOT: Will they go all the way and overturn the Abood precedent of 40 years?

FINLEY: Yes, I think they will, I mean this is aripe case, they've already considered a couple of other cases, Harris v. Quinn, Knox v. SEIU in recent years, that they didn't have to go all the way and overturn Abood in those cases, but they were very critical of Abood in its analysis.

GIGOT: And the impact of this, Dan, could be profound, because it was brought originally, the Janus case, by Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois, who has found himself unable to move the legislature in Illinois, that's a wholly owned subsidiary I would argue of the public employee unions. So if they aren't as powerful in raising money, this could have a big effect on local and state governments.

HENNINGER: Absolutely it could have an effect on state governments. And look, these public unions in the states overplayed their hand. They will not contribute or refuse to contribute anything to their pension costs or their healthcare costs, killing state budgets. And so people like Governor Rauner and other governors have had no choice but to take on the unions in this way. And the Supreme Court will be aware of that. And if they rule this way, a lot of the government union power in those states is going to begin to recede.

GIGOT: Fascinating, we'll watch it closely. We have to take one more break. When we come back, hits and misses of the week.


GIGOT: Time now for our hits and misses of the week, Kim, start us off.

STRASSEL: Well, the World Health Organization released figures this week, showing an absolute epidemic of measles in Europe, where the cases of that quadrupled in 2017 compared to 2016 to more than 21,000 people. By comparison, the Americans had about 118 cases of measles and that's bad enough. So, this is a huge miss to the anti-vaccination crowd which has spread totally debunked information and scared people out of protecting themselves and their kids. We've got to crack down on this and get those vaccine rates back up again.

GIGOT: Hear, hear, Kim. Bill?

MCGURN: Paul, we're about to do the meanest thing anyone could do to Bernie Sanders, the Wall Street Journal's going to give him a hit, for his appearance on a radio show where he said Hillary Clinton should have done more to address the Russian issue. He's probably a little miffed that in Robert Mueller's new indictments of the Russians it says that they tried to help his campaign, but has a point. He said Hillary knew a lot more, if you remember, the DNC did not cooperate with the FBI and let them look at their servers when they were hit. On Meet the Press I think two weeks ago, he said Obama should have done more. So this new Bernie's growing on me.

GIGOT: All right. Allysia?

FINLEY: This is a miss to Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin who last year was promoting $3 billion subsidies for FoxConn for planning to build flat screen TV monitors. Now, he's under pressure to also promote a subsidy package for Kimberly-Clark which has announced 600 worker layoffs and come one, come all.

GIGOT: For subsidies. Dan?

HENNINGER: I'm giving a hit to the American economy, which last week unemployment claims fell to seasonally adjusted 220,000. This is the lowest level since 1973, as President Trump pointed out in his CPAC speech. And he's right, this means wages are going to rise, but it impacts one other issue close to him, which is, where are we going to find the workers when we get down to this level. Maybe instead of deportations, we're going to have start thinking about importations of workers.

GIGOT: OK, Dan thank you, that's it for week's show. Thanks to my panel, thanks to you especially, I'm Paul Gigot, we hope to see you right here next week.

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