First in the editorial series: Rights and the Republic
I wrote this several years ago in response to a brief furor over the meaning, intent and accuracy of the commas in the single-sentenced Second Amendment: "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."
Last night, as I was attempting to pen my editorial column about Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties and related matters, this popped up on my Facebook memories, and it seems to me, this is a good place to start an editorial series on Rights & the Republic.
Does the comma in the Second Amendment change the meaning of the Second Amendment?
The important thing, the thing that Everyone seems to miss, is that it does NOT matter where the comma falls, or how you interpret this Amendment. Seriously, it Does. Not. Matter. .. I wish i could get that through people’s heads. And stop looking daggers at me, I’m not saying our Constitutional rights don’t matter, what I’m saying is our RIGHTS matter, with no limiter, and that is what the Founding Fathers intended. People forget that the Bill of Rights is an ADDITION to the main document.. a footnote, actually.
Most of the Founding Fathers, in fact, didn’t want to add the “Amendments”, didn’t want them to muddy the waters, so to speak. See, the thing is, by saying that the government “can't take away” certain rights, that implies that “rights” or “freedoms” if you will, are the governments’ to give and take, when the Constitution itself makes VERY clear that the opposite is true. The Constitution does NOT create or grant an individual's rights… rights, all rights, all facets of life and decisions regarding an individual’s life, are rights that we, individually, naturally posses
…“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness… “
Note a) Unalienable - adj. not transferable to another or capable of being repudiated
Note b) “Among these”.. The Founding Fathers even worded this so that even those pretty all-encompassing words, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” couldn’t be used as a limiter to the natural rights we hold.
The term “amendments” is a misnomer .. the specific "Amendments” …don’t really “amend” anything in the Constitution, They only emphasize and clarify. The term ”Bill of Rights” is more apropos, though still slightly misleading.
The Constitution doesn’t grant you and I rights, we already have all rights...it grants the government rights .. very limited rights. The Bill of Rights does not actually grant you and I rights, it only more clearly states .. kinda an “in no uncertain terms” type thing, very important rights that were deemed worthy of emphasizing that the government did not have a right to impinge upon. Even the preamble to the Bill of Rights makes this Very abundantly clear.. “THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added”
(It should be noted and highlighted that the "restrictive clauses" referred to restrictions on the government's powers, NOT restrictions on citizens rights... reading of the text of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights makes that evident.)
They even went a step further to make sure people, and future governments, did not misunderstand the Bill of Rights to be a be-all-end-all list of the only rights citizens possess, in the wording of the Ninth Amendment.
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”.. In other words, just because something is not listed in the Bill of Rights, does NOT mean it is not our right.
And, yet again, in the 10th Amendment, the Founding Fathers emphasized that ALL those other rights, that were not Specifically enumerated in the Constitution as belonging to the Federal Government, belongs in the hands of either the states individually, or the individual citizen.
“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.”
(IF you were hoping for a debate specifically on the issue of gun control/gun rights, you'll have to wait for an editorial a little further down the road... debates about any specific rights, including firearms, simply cannot be settled, or even addressed, until we as a society reach a unified, unbreakable understanding and agreement on the underlying issue of "rights" in general.. and more specifically - the extremely limited rights granted to the government in our Constitution.)