Letters to the Editor

The Constitution, not a militia, is our bulwark against tyranny | Letter to the Editor

I agree with the calls for context when discussing the Second Amendment (“Amendment needs to be seen in its historical context,” Feb. 6). But I have a somewhat different take on the nature of that context.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights, authored primarily by George Mason with contribution from James Madison, predates the Constitution by several years.

I quote: “A well regulated militia, composed of a body of people, trained in arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free state: that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty: and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”

The Bill of Rights is credited to Madison, with Mason. Their primary concern in preserving a right to bear arms was the threat that a standing army might pose to civilian government and to liberty.

There is nothing in the description of militias in the Constitution that addresses protection of the people from governmental tyranny. In fact, one of the stated duties of the militias is to put down insurrection. And all state militias are ultimately “under strict subordination to” Congress and the commander-in-chief.

The discussion about guns and society is vital, and there are compelling arguments all around. But unless we are talking about disbanding the military after we withdraw from Afghanistan, the Second Amendment is only tangentially applicable (Antonin Scalia not withstanding).

The founders were engaged in an unprecedented effort to craft a government of, by and for the people. The Constitution, and the political system it instituted, is the people’s true protection against tyranny.

Attempts to cheat the political system through voter suppression, gerrymandering, the invention of corporate First Amendment rights, manipulation of the Electoral College and the brutal corruption of campaign finance and lobbying practices most certainly represent a greater threat to the real bulwark against tyranny than would reasonable regulation of guns.

 

— Steve Hunter

 

 

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