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July 23, 2014

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Letter to the editor:

Bill of Rights is there to protect us

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Regarding Steve Orton’s letter to the editor, “Amendment is not about individuals”:

The gist of his argument is that the Second Amendment does not apply to individuals but rather to the state governments which, upon possibly finding the new central government not to their liking, “could break away, form their own militia and become an independent state.”

Funny, I was always taught that the Bill of Rights (the original 10 amendments) was about preserving the rights of the “people.” A close reading of all the Bill of Rights indicates that they, indeed, were added to the Constitution to spell out the immunities of individual citizens, who had suffered widespread British violation of civil rights before and during the recent Revolution.

And, oh, by the way, as to his argument that the Founding Fathers would, upon viewing all of our “modernity,” conclude that we didn’t need guns: I guess that, by his reasoning, since we have so many modern modes of communication and news (magazines, TV, the Internet, social media, etc.), we really don’t need the First Amendment freedom of speech and the press.

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Previous Discussion: 21 comments so far…

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  1. There's no question in my mind that The Bill of Rights is about individual freedom. But, these rights of individuals are not unlimited but need to also provide positive contributions to the society we live in. For example, freedom of religion does not necessarily legitimize polygamy or human sacrifice. Neither does the Second Amendment require that we check common sense at the door when an established practice becomes harmful.

  2. The rights of the individual are absolute, the powers of the state are not.

    CarmineD

  3. Re Future: No worries. A bill such as Feinstein's has no chance of passing in either house of Congress. It's a "feel good" sop to the liberal wing of the Dem party.

  4. Re Future: Polygamy still exists in isolated pockets like northern Arizona. Remember Warren Jeffs? Polygamy only became unfashionable to the political leaders in Utah when they wanted to become a state. The feds told them that it would be contingent on getting rid of polygamy as "lawful" in the territory of Utah.

  5. Inch by inch, "progressives" and their fellow travelers move to dismantle the Constitution and the protection it affords us. Any excuse they can find is used to bolster their Commie-lite agenda and to "fundamentally" remake the USA. Traditional values hundreds of years old are casually thrown into the garbage can if they do not meet the "social justice" agenda of the wackos on the left. But, then, they feel-good about themselves. Never mind the horrific damage they do to our society and especially to the weak-minded functional illiterates they make dependent upon government handouts. And, being the lemmings they are, they want to take us all over the cliff with them.

  6. lvfacts101 - "Inch by inch, "progressives" and their fellow travelers move to dismantle the Constitution and the protection it affords us."

    Name the amendments or sections of the Constitution that have been dismantled since Obama became president.

    Again we hear the sky is falling and people running around with their hair on fire, reacting to something that hasn't happened. You should be afraid of the Patriot Act because that truly stips rights from citizens, and most of you right wingers are clueless concerning that fact.

  7. "protect us" Gun proliferation is a cancer that is eating at the fabric of our society. Millions victimized through deliberate criminal acts as well as accidents.

  8. "A close reading of all the Bill of Rights indicates that they, indeed, were added to the Constitution to spell out the immunities of individual citizen..."

    Downer -- especially with catch-all unenumerated rights preserved in the Ninth Amendment. Good letter!

    "For example, freedom of religion does not necessarily legitimize polygamy or human sacrifice."

    pisces -- actually your point about polygamy is wrong. So long as its between people of age (enough to enter into a contract) and with everyone's consent, what's the problem?

    "Inch by inch, "progressives" and their fellow travelers move to dismantle the Constitution and the protection it affords us."

    lvfacts -- excellent point! Though it's not so much dismantling it as it is considering it to be a quaint list of suggestions. So long as those who violate their oaths to it are rewarded instead of penalized nothing will change.

    "Name the amendments or sections of the Constitution that have been dismantled since Obama became president."

    VernosB -- read the Fourth Amendment then catch a flight at McCarran. Although much of the dismantling began in earnest with Bush, the fact the Patriot Act has been repeatedly renewed bolsters lvfact's point.

    "protect us" Gun proliferation is a cancer that is eating at the fabric of our society."

    zippert -- so which of the other nine amendments do you suggest should be abrogated with such impunity?

    "...a legislative act contrary to the Constitution is not law." -- Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803)

  9. The Commerce Clause, coupled with the Supremacy Clause, has been used for a very long time now to make a mockery of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

  10. KillerB....Find me an amendment that has killed more Americans than all enemies in all wars combined, just in the last few decades, and that one should go also.

    People who think the 2nd amendment provides safety and protection need desperately to visit any morgue in a major city and count the bullet holes in the corpses.

  11. The Bill of Rights did not apply to slaves or white women, but it was a beginning. It allowed men mostly to form a State militia but fight for the Federal Government and not succeed.

    By 1745 there had been attention getting and sometimes large slave revolts in the Colonies and in the Caribbean. The Constitution did not apply to the population in it's entirety because the protection of liberties was parceled out only to qualified citizens.

    The 2nd Amendment allowed individuals (whites) to bear arms as members of a State Militia but ironically, those State Militias (and vigilante committees) were also used to put down local revolts of slaves.

    Therefore, the Bill of Rights applied neither to the individual or the population as a whole, but only special interest groups that held property, wealth or the proper race and sex. Yet it was still a lot better then the Church and State Governments of Europe. The large religious institutions of Europe put nearly everyone into a form of slavery, all except the privileged aristocrats and religious monarchs which fed off the lay public like ravenous parasites.

  12. Future asks" Do you think polygamy is a RIGHT" Answer - If the first amendment is as absolute as gun nuts claim that the second is, and if your religion approves it, then yes, polygamy IS an absolute right.

  13. SgtRock - You need to look carefully at the meaning of "militia" at the time the second amendment was written. In 1939 the Supreme Court did just that and determined that ". . . the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. 'A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.' And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time."

    Note: There was no mention of a "state" militia.

    States could, and did, define just what they required of a militia. In 1786 New York, for example required that every member ". . . provide himself, at his own Expense, with a good Musket or Firelock, a sufficient Bayonet and Belt, 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 containing a proper Quantity of Powder and Ball, two spare Flints, a Blanket and Knapsack; . . ."

    In 1785, Virginia was a bit more specific: ". . .every non-commissioned officer and private <will provide> a good, clean musket carrying an ounce ball, and three feet eight inches long in the barrel, with a good bayonet and iron ramrod well fitted thereto, a cartridge box properly made, to contain and secure twenty cartridges fitted to his musket, a good knapsack and canteen, and moreover, each non-commissioned officer and private shall have at every muster one pound of good powder, and four pounds of lead, including twenty blind cartridges, and each serjeant shall have a pair of moulds fit to cast balls for their respective companies, to be purchased by the commanding officer out of the monies arising on delinquencies."

    Those who would ground a right to bear arms on a militia should be demanding that our current standing army be immediately disbanded and replaced with militias as they were defined in 1789, armed as required by the various state laws in place in 1789.

  14. Comments routinely point to the US Constitution as permitting the people to possess firearms for personal defense or to combat a "tyrannical" Federal government. Oddly, the Constitution itself does not mention that concept.

    Specific powers granted to Congress are: 1)"The President shall be Commander in Chief. . . of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States" (Section 2); 2) "To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;" (Section 8); 3) "To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States" (Section 8).

    It is often claimed that the current National Guard replaces the original militia. This may well be true when it is acting within its home state and under the command of its state governor. When called up by the Federal government, the "National Guard" ceases to exist in a sense, becoming an element of the Federal Army or Air Force, and governed by FEDERAL rules. As noted above, that does NOT include acting in self defense from private attackers or acting against a "tyrannical" Federal government.

    (Query: Under our Republic "We, the People" ARE the government. Is it possible for "We, the People" acting as a government to tyrannize "We, the People" acting as individuals???)

  15. "...Find me an amendment that has killed more Americans than all enemies in all wars combined, just in the last few decades, and that one should go also."

    zippert -- how is that in any way relevant to this Discussion? As if a protected liberty killed anyone offensively. Read Heller and McDonald before you come back here on this topic or expect to be ignored.

    "Comments routinely point to the US Constitution as permitting the people to possess firearms for personal defense or to combat a "tyrannical" Federal government."

    Renorobert -- actually "the US Constitution" does not permit "the people" to do anything, it places limits on government authority by protecting liberties already in existence at the time. The federal constitution is actually a social compact granting certain enumerated powers to the government it created. That's pretty much US Constitution 101.

    "...the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table." District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. (slip opinion at 64) (2008)

  16. "The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery" - In Truthout.

    "The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states. That was necessary to get Virginia's vote."

    "In Georgia, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state."

    "And slave rebellions were keeping the slave patrols busy. By the time the Constitution was ratified, hundreds of substantial slave uprisings had occurred across the South. Blacks outnumbered whites in large areas, and the state militias were used to both prevent and to put down slave uprisings."

    This wasn't the only reason, but it was a big one. There were over 250,000 slaves in Virginia around 1760 and many large revolts in the Caribbean and Colonies had already taken place.

  17. "The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery" - In Truthout."

    SunJon -- maybe it was part of it in parts of our new republic, maybe not. Blackstone commented Catholics convicted of not attending the Church of England were disarmed as part of their penalties. It's all in the Heller case, this bit taken from the slip opinion's page 9.

    Justice Story wrote in his 1833 Commentaries that the right to bear arms "has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic." That sums it up best, I think.

    "If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars." -- Sun Records head Sam Phillips, overheard by co-manager Marion Keisker

  18. Dave, nice letter. Free advice (worth every dime you pay for it): don't refer to "I was taught." We might think you did K-12 in CCSD and have not yet gained critical thinking skills.

  19. KillerB: You take exception to my saying the Constitution "permits" people to do something. I totally agree with your supporting argument. However, my original statement was that "Comments routinely point to the US Constitution as permitting the people to possess firearms for personal defense. . . "

    Please feel free to rebut what I say myself, preferably with fact rather than the emotion some use in this space. When I summarize others arguments, feel free to criticize me if I do so incorrectly. Do not, however, criticize me if my summary is relatively accurate, as I feel it was in this case. You are, of course, free to disagree with my summarizations - preferably with specific examples.

  20. SunJon (Jon Becker) - I suggest you reread "The Federalist Papers", especially No 24 by Hamilton. The second amendment was a clear attempt by its authors to balance the need for some form of national security - a militia, comprised of the whole body of the people - against the founders reasonable fears (based on their own experience) of standing armies.

    This is why the basic Constitution authorizes Congress to call out the Militia specifically "...to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; and to "...provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia..." It also explains why Congress can fund an army, but cannot pass an appropriation for that purpose lasting more than two years. (Wonder how many appropriations actually exceed 2 years?? Particularly for large weapons systems, for maintenance of posts/bases/ships, recruitment, etc.?)

  21. "KillerB: You take exception to my saying the Constitution "permits" people to do something....."

    "SunJon...I suggest you reread "The Federalist Papers", especially No 24 by Hamilton."

    renorobert -- I intended my post to be a clarification for all, nothing personal to you. I enjoy your posts and the reasoning you express.

    You gave excellent advice for SunJon. He used to post good ones here, don't know what happened to him in the last year.

    My quote from Justice Story yesterday pretty much sums up the then-understood purpose for the Second Amendment. Perhaps the point to explored more on this issue is why government should be afraid of an armed citizenry?

    "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." -- Abraham Lincoln, first inaugural address, 1861