Back in the early 1770’s, in the run-up to the Revolutionary War, no patriot leader was saying that there were limits to freedom of speech. No patriot leader ever uttered the nonsense that free speech was not absolute and then use the argument that one couldn’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater. The English? Yes, I’m sure the English leadership wanted free speech shut down. In fact, the English wanted to shut down the churches because the American pastors were preaching what they considered incendiary sermons about liberty, inciting the American populace.
Likewise, no American patriot ever said, or thought, that the God-given, natural right to keep and bear arms wasn’t absolute but, rather, had limits. Nor were the leaders of the newly established Republic saying anything like that in 1887, as they were gathering to write the Constitution. In fact, 10 years earlier, the patriots fought a war, part of which involved preventing English Army attempts to seize American armories to prevent the patriots from having access to firearms and munitions.
Let’s do Constitution 101, followed by Bill of Rights 101.
“The United States Constitution was written to set forth the essential infrastructure for a new centralized Government and to establish very clear boundaries for that government.”
If you’ve read the Constitution, it will be clear to you that the powers of the federal government are not unlimited. In fact, the purpose of the Constitution was to define clearly the limited powers of government. The Constitution defines the powers of government as few and defined. The power of government, in fact, rested in the people, and the rights of the people and the individual states were many and without limit.
To clarify the difference between the rights of government and the people, the Framers defined those differences in the ninth and tenth amendments.
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people” – 9th Amendment to the Constitution.
In other words, ‘Do not let it be thought that the enumeration of a very few, very important, rights is meant to exhaust the list of rights held by the people which are, in fact, too numerous to list.’
“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” – 10th Amendment to the Constitution.
In other words, ‘Any authority that the federal government attempts to appropriate to itself, that is not specifically listed in the Constitution, does not exist. Furthermore, all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government are, in fact, under the purview of the individual states and the people therein, unless specifically prohibited to the states.’
Allow me to address the phrase, “nor prohibited by it to the States…” What exactly does that mean? Let’s use the most contentious of issues to shed light on this idea.
“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” – 2ND Amendment to the Constitution.
Did the Framers establish the right to keep and bear arms? Was that a theretofore unknown right? Before we go there… In the 2nd Amendment, the framers took it upon themselves, lest in future times some would forget, to restate that the sacrosanct right to keep and bear arms was a God-given right and the government had no right to infringe on such rights. This statement, appearing in a federal document, seems to me to fit the bill of answering the question of what was prohibited by the Constitution to be under the purview of the individual states. The right to keep and bear arms was understood to be a God-given right, preceding any government, any document of the people enumerating rights, and, certainly, the establishment of the individual US States and the voluntary union they agreed to participate in. The individual states, therefore, have no right to infringe upon our right to keep and bear arms as much as they have no right to impose restrictions on free speech, religion, or the freedom of the press (1st Amendment), quartering of military personnel in private homes (3rd Amendment), privacy against search and seizures (4th Amendment), Due Process (5th Amendment), etc.
These rights are God-given and, therefore, outside of the realm of both federal and state governments. These rights belong strictly to the people and are not to be abrogated by any government. In other words, any attempt to regulate or restrict such rights is forbidden to the states by the Constitution. If there is a problem with the way any particular individual citizen, or group of citizens, are exercising their natural rights, the Executive, the Congress, the federal government, or the state governments may repair to the courts and have their cause heard there and decided upon based on the merits of such argument as regards the Constitution.
Which, finally, brings me to this… nothing in the Constitution attempts to establish rights. There are no rights that the government can convey upon anyone. Government can only bestow privileges upon people. When government builds roads, forgetting the fact that any such roads are built with the taxes placed upon citizens, the government takes upon itself the ability to grant or deny Americans the privilege to operate a motor vehicle upon those roads. On your private property, the government possesses no such authority. No one can grant or withhold the privilege of driving a motor vehicle upon one’s own property. That is not a privilege, it is a natural right and it does not fall under the purview of the federal or state government to regulate. In fact, the Constitution mandates that government is established to protect our rights, the right to do as we please on our own property being one of those rights… otherwise known as the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
The idea that Americans have a 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms is an obfuscation and a smokescreen. The 2nd Amendment is a mandate to government not to infringe upon the God-given right to keep and bear arms, not to establish any such right. So it is, likewise with all the natural rights of Americans, enumerated or not. It’s not that hard to figure out. Whatever authority the Constitution relegates to the federal government is the purview of the federal government, everything else belongs to the people.
That’s it… Constitution 101 and The Bill or Rights 101. If our elected officials ever took the time to read our founding documents, that they all took an oath to uphold and defend, we’d all be better off.