By Dr. Harold Pease
Forget Democrats! Forget Republicans and Liberals and Conservatives!! These are labels to cause someone else to do your thinking for you. This is about the Constitution that all elected officials, when elected, swore to uphold. This is not even about guns but about following the Constitution until authentically changed by amendment. This issue is so serious that it is a certain litmus test to political parties and individuals differentiating those who respect this document from those who do not!
The Second Amendment could not be made clearer: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Militia in their day consistently referred to the people. I have read every version of this sentence as it was formulated, principally by James Madison, as the second most important freedom next to the expression freedoms of the 1st Amendment. The Bill of Rights was arranged in order of preference with the exception of Amendments 9 and 10 as they dealt with the concept of general powers retained by the people and those reserved to the states, not specific freedoms as are Amendments 1-8. It is important because it protects the 1st Amendment.
I too weep for the children at Newtown, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now my own city of Taft, California, where I too was “locked down” while police resolved the gun violence of a 16-year-old student with a shotgun in the classroom. Last summer I had a three-year-old grandson die from an accidental gunshot to the head but these losses cannot, and need not, be resolved by violating the Constitution.
Mr. President, neither Congress, nor you, has any authority to do anything on “the right to bear arms” outside of changing the Constitution by an amendment. It is well to remember that the 2nd Amendment exists because the states would not support the new Constitution without a guarantee that you would never deprive their citizens of their right to bear arms. The language was as strong as they knew how to make it. No sentence in the Constitution was stronger. The amendment was specifically addressed with the federal government in mind. What is it that you do not understand about “shall not be infringed?” Congress, you may not legislate the 2nd Amendment away by giving authorization to some types of weapons over others or approving some types of ammunition and denying others. Nor may the President go into the Oval Office and unilaterally make an executive order limiting or denying these things as Congress alone is constitutionally empowered to make law (Art. I, Sec. I). Your making law should be an impeachable offense. Unfortunately, Congress is too weak to stop the Executive Branch from usurping its authority and that of the people—even that specifically denied them as in this case.
I know of the bogus argument that the 2nd Amendment applies only to the National Guard but anyone reading anything on the subject by the Founding Fathers knows otherwise. The militia was defined in the Second Continental Congress as every able bodied male 17 years of age and older—the citizens. The National Guard was created in 1903 by the Dick Act, which divided the militia into the organized and unorganized militia with the definition retained for the unorganized. I have taught the Constitution long enough to know all the arguments attempting to give place to the federal government over the guns of its citizens; none of them pass muster from the Founders’ perspective. These arguments attract only the less informed.
So times have changed, one might argue, and we now need federal involvement. If so, why not do it constitutionally as required by the Constitution? Don’t just twist the Constitution to mean something never meant, of which Washington warned us not to do, “Let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed” (Farewell Address).
Instructions for change in the Constitution are provided in Article V and can be proposed by either Congress or “on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of several states.” Once proposed the federal government is removed from the picture altogether—it cannot empower itself. The states are given two ways in which they can pass their power to the federal government (remember, all power not listed in the Constitution belongs to the states and the people as per Amendment 10) but it requires 3/4th of the states to do so, either way. Notice that there exists zero power of the office of president to make change. Veto power also does not exist. Let Congress or the states initiate a proposed amendment to empower the federal government as we have 17 times before when the nation wanted a change.
The federal government does not like Article V because it requires permission from the states to enlarge its jurisdiction. That is precisely why this Article exists; still, it remains the proper and only constitutional way to change the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution and anyone trying to do it in any other way should be removed from power as quickly as the Constitution allows—whether Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal. The biggest fatality in this gun debate is irreparable damage to the Constitution, and to freedom, if we do not insist on change the only way authorized.
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.