Saturday, June 26, 2010

Second Amendment Essentials- Part 3

Why it's Needed

In previous columns we have examined how the Second Amendment protects an individual right. We looked at how “the militia” referenced in the amendment referred to all law-abiding citizens. Although it is clear that the Founding Fathers wanted an armed populace, our modern friends and neighbors may wonder why.

Besides the necessity of putting wild game on the table, the founders realized that the right to keep and bear arms gave the people a defense against various threats to their lives and liberty. Joseph Story, the famous jurist and Supreme Court Justice put it this way: "The importance of this article [Second Amendment] will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defense of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers." I would add common crime to that list as well.

Admittedly the risk of foreign military invasion is pretty remote. Fortress America is protected by oceans on two sides and friendly neighbors to the north and south, but who knows what the future holds? Any nation foolish enough to send an invading army into the United States would be in for a fight. Even if they were able to defeat American military forces and capture certain areas, the armed citizenry would be able to conduct a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the occupiers. As Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and numerous other examples have proven, armed civilians on their own turf are often harder to defeat than professional armies.

Thomas Paine: "[A]rms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property... Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them."

Domestic tyranny, unfortunately, may be a more likely threat than foreign invasion. Our founding fathers understood that an armed populace was the final, last ditch safeguard against government suppression of the people’s liberty, when all the other “checks and balances” had failed.

Joseph Story: "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium [safeguard] of the liberties of a Republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them[.]"

Noah Webster: "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States."

Thomas Jefferson: "And what country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."

Defense against crime is probably the most relevant of these issues to modern day Americans. Police can’t (and in a free society shouldn’t) be everywhere. This means that the duty to protect the individual resides with the individual himself. Some places have recognized that fact while others have tried to hide from it.

John Jay: "Even if it was practicable, would it be wise to disarm the good before 'the wicked cease from troubling?'" [citing Job 3:17]

A look at crime rates from around the country shows that areas with the most restrictive prohibitions on civilian gun ownership have the highest crime rates (e.g. Washington D.C.), while areas with the least restrictive gun laws have some of the lowest crime rates (e.g. Vermont). States that legally recognize the right to carry concealed firearms, for instance, have 26% lower total violent crime and lower rates of murder by 31%, robbery by 50%, and aggravated assault by 15%, than states that do not recognize the right to carry.

America’s crime rates have remained low while the number of guns in private ownership has greatly increased and the number of licensed concealed carriers has also increased. Compare that to England and Australia which have seen their violent crime rates (including gun crimes) skyrocket after passing near-total gun bans. According to the U.N., these two countries now have higher violent-crime rates than America. Noted crime researcher Professor John Lott summed it up succinctly in the title of his book, “More Guns, Less Crime.”

The Second Amendment reads: “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.” The militia that the framers referred to was all citizens capable of fighting. The amendment therefore protects an individual right of the people to keep and bear arms, which is necessary to defend themselves from crime, invasion and tyranny.  Now, just as then, that's important.

End of series.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Second Amendment Essentials- Part 2

An Individual Right

In the previous post we dispelled the idea that "the militia" referred to in the Second Amendment means a "select militia," such as today's National Guard. Instead the "general militia" that the Constitutional framers referenced meant all citizens capable of bearing arms for defense.

Although both sides of the current gun debate could probably squabble over the definition of "the militia" indefinitely, the Founding Fathers left little doubt as to what they meant. It is clear that the right they referred to was an individual right. The following quotes should further dispel any doubts:

Patrick Henry: "The great object is that every man be armed... Every one who is able may have a gun."

Thomas Jefferson: "No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms within his own lands."

Zachariah Johnston: "The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them..."

Samual Adams: "The said Constitution [shall] be never construed to authorize Congress […] to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms."

James Madison: The Constitution preserves "the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation... [where] the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."

Tench Coxe: "[T]he people are confirmed by the next article (of amendment) in their right to keep and bear their private arms."

Akhil Reed Amar (Modern Yale Law School Professor): "The ultimate right to keep and bear arms belongs to 'the people', not the 'states.' As the language of the Tenth Amendment shows, these two are of course not identical and when the Constitution means 'states,' it says so." [See below.]

The Tenth Amendment states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." [Emphasis added.] The people and the States are two separate entities. The United States is a third.

Its ridiculous to think that "the people" referred to in the Second Amendment actually means "the States." It is the same "the people" who have the right to peaceably assemble under the First Amendment. It is the same "the people" whose "right [...] to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" is guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment. If we apply the gun-prohibitionists' "the people means the States" logic to the other amendments in the Bill of Rights, it becomes clear how absurd their logic is.

All this led the U.S. Supreme Court to conclude in the 2008 landmark Heller decision: “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Second Amendment Essentials- Part 1

Who Are the “Militia?”

With the Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 ruling in D.C. vs. Heller, declaring that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, we might think that the debate over the Second Amendment has been put to rest. However, we gun owners can’t get complacent. As the saying goes, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” We need to keep educating ourselves and our neighbors about the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitutions reads simply, "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." People who dislike civilian gun use often focus on the phrase “a well-regulated militia” as proof that the amendment doesn’t protect civilian ownership.

So, who are the "militia" referred to in the Second Amendment? For the definition of the militia at the time that the Bill of Rights was written we must look at the statements of the Founding Fathers who were alive at the time. Here are a few examples:

George Mason: "[W]ho are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers." State Gazette of S. Carolina (Sept. 8, 1788): "Such are a well regulated militia, composed of the freeholders, citizen and husbandman, who take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as freemen." Samuel Adams: "The militia is composed of free citizens."

Tench Coxe: "Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people."

The Founding Fathers drew a distinction between the "general militia" composed of the body of the people and a "select militia" which received special weapons and training from the government (like today's National Guard). They viewed "select militias" with almost as much suspicion as they did standing armies, as the following quote demonstrates.

Richard Henry Lee: "A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves... and include all men capable of bearing arms... To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms... The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle."

Shortly after the ratification of the Constitution, the U.S. Congress passed The Militia Act of 1792 that declared that all free male citizens between the ages of 18 and 44 were members of the militia. It also stated that "[e]very citizen... [shall] provide himself with a good musket, or flintlock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints…[,]” in short, that every male citizen be armed. As with other rights, such as voting and owning property, the right to keep and bear arms was slowly extended to women and minorities through the years.

U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution (1982): "In the Militia Act of 1792, the second Congress defined 'militia of the United States' to include almost every free adult male in the United States. These persons were obligated by law to possess a [military-style] firearm and a minimum supply of ammunition and military equipment... There can be little doubt from this that when the Congress and the people spoke of the 'militia,' they had reference to the traditional concept of the entire populace capable of bearing arms, and not any formal group such as what is today called the National Guard."

It is clear that when the founders referred to “the militia” they meant all law-abiding citizens.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Iowa City Targets Freedom of Movement

At a time when liberals around the country are criticizing Arizona’s new immigration law as encouraging discrimination and criticizing Rand Paul’s rhetorical questioning of the federal governments authority to ban discrimination by private businesses, liberals on the Iowa City council are making such discrimination mandatory. The new city ordinance bans members of a certain “lesser class” of adult legal-citizens from entering some private business establishments while allowing members of a more privileged class of citizens to enter those same businesses. So much for the supposedly "liberal" principles of fairness and equality.

The new ordinance states that anyone under 21 is barred from being in drinking establishments after 10 p.m. The problem is that people over 18 are legally adults. This is a curfew for adult Americans, restricting their rights to freedom of movement, peaceable assembly, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble[,]” even in bars. The Ninth Amendment serves notice that the people have rights too numerous to be listed. It reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The people (even young adults) can do whatever they want, so long as they don’t harm others.

Article I, Sec. 1 of the Constitution of the State of Iowa states: “All men and women are, by nature, free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights--among which are those of enjoying […] liberty […] and pursuing and obtaining […] happiness.” [Emphasis added.] The Iowa City ordinance does not treat its young citizens as “free and equal” and infringes their rights of “enjoying liberty” and “pursuing happiness.”

By the way, “liberty” is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary thusly: “1 : the quality or state of being free: a : the power to do as one pleases b : freedom from physical restraint c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges e : the power of choice.” [Emphasis added.]

Although I don’t put much stock in the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Iowa City liberals generally do and it is now taught in our schools with more enthusiasm than the U.S. Declaration of Independence or Bill of Rights. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration states: “Everyone has the right to […] liberty[.]”

Other provisions include: Article 13: “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement[.]” Article 20: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.” Article 24: “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure[.]” Article 27: “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community[.]” The Iowa City ordinance violates even this, the liberals’ sacred screed.

University of Iowa (UI) students and local business owners collected thousands of signatures for a petition to put the new ordinance up for a vote by the people on the November ballot. Unfortunately, city hall invalidated fully 60% of those signatures, putting the petition well below the legally-required number of signatures to allow a vote. Since many of the signers of the petition were college students and first-time voters, they didn’t appear on the city clerks voter list, so the ordinance stands. (Signature collecting efforts are still underway.)

This law is only the latest onerous effort by the Iowa City council to curb drinking in its city, especially by under-age college students. What results have their previous efforts yielded? A new report shows that alcohol-related offenses at UI rose 53% last year, even though a UI police official said they had “not significantly increased alcohol-related enforcement.” Drunk driving citations at UI shot up 97% last year!

So, when this latest effort also fails to reduce drinking, the city council and UI will have to come up with even more restrictions upon the liberty of young adults between 18 and 20, as well as local business owners. Who knows what atrocities await as Iowa City seeks a “final solution” to its “young-adult problem.”

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Poll: Iowans Support Medical Marijuana and Gay Marriage

According to a recent poll commissioned by KCCI NewsChannel 8 (Des Moines), majorities of Iowans support both medical marijuana and gay marriage.

A clear majority of 62% of respondents said they supported legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. 33% said they were opposed to the idea, while 5% were unsure.

"I don't think it's any more hazardous or dangerous than any other medication, if it's used properly," Bob Lipert, who said he suffers from multiple sclerosis, told KCCI.

Also according to the poll, a slim majority of 53% said they supported marriage rights for same-sex couples. 41% said they were opposed.

"Iowans want their elected officials to focus on issues like jobs and education and really, those pocketbook issues, rather than focusing on divisive issues that are going to pit neighbor against neighbor," said Justin Uebelhor of the gay-rights group One Iowa.

Bryan English of the Iowa Family Policy Center disagreed. Apparently referring to the fact that Iowa's gay marriage policy was imposed by the courts rather than the legislature, English told KCCI: "When folks go to the polls next week and then in November, they will in fact support candidates who understand their Constitution and who will defend marriage."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Glenn Beck's "Common Sense"

There's been a string of celebrity commentators whom I've enjoyed in other media, but I didn't like their books. I enjoy listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, but I didn't enjoy his book. I loved hearing Charlton Heston speak, but I didn't love his book. Now I can add national radio and television host Glenn Beck to this list.

I like watching him on TV, but I didn't like his book "Glenn Beck's Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine." Since the previous book I read before Beck was John Locke's "Two Treatises of Government," anything not written in 17th Century English was refreshing. But as I think back about Beck's "Common Sense" though, I can't really recall any new ideas that I took away from it.

Where Beck shines is when he details what he calls "The Cancer of Progressivism." Here Beck doesn't just bash the Democrats. He shows how both political parties are steeped in the ideology of the progressives (who some might call liberals or statists). He includes some telling quotes from Republican President Teddy Roosevelt who believed that private property was "subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it," and continues on to George W. Bush's big government policies. Beck has strong political convictions and is not just a schill for the GOP, even if his opponents may try to paint him that way.

The book also contains a copy of Thomas Paine's 1776 classic "Common Sense." Since I had read Paine's work many years ago and time is short, I didn't reread it this time. As I recall, in it Paine spends a lot of time explaining why hereditary monarchy is not a good form of government. Although I hope every American will read Paine's work at least once, to many modern readers it will seem like... well, common sense.

In general, if you're looking for a primer on small government and constitutional thought, I would forgo "Glenn Beck's Common Sense" and pick up a copy of "The Revolution: A Manifesto" by Dr. Ron Paul. I'll continue to enjoy Beck where he excels: on TV and radio.

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