[Clips] Vin Suprynowicz: 'The Unlimited Power Of The Sword'

R. A. Hettinga rah at shipwright.com
Sun Dec 25 14:56:38 PST 2005

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 Dec. 25, 2005

 Las Vegas Review-Journal

 VIN SUPRYNOWICZ: 'The unlimited power of the sword'

 A couple of loyal readers asked me, in response to my recent evisceration
 of the discredited "militia clause" argument, "But Vin, do you think the
 Founders would have written the Second Amendment that way if they'd known
 we'd have Uzis"?

 Leaving aside the fact that it takes extraordinary dedication and
 commitment (and loot) for a "civilian" of average means to legally acquire
 a fully automatic Israeli machine pistol in America today, the answer is,

 The Founders had every opportunity to add "except for bombs, mortars,
 artillery and other devices that can kill more than one person at a time"
 -- all of which were well-known by 1787. They did not. Quite to the
 contrary, Tench Coxe, noted federalist and friend of James Madison, wrote
 in defense of the proposed Constitution, in the Pennsylvania Gazette of
 Feb. 20, 1788: "Their swords, and every other terrible instrument of the
 soldier, are the birth right of an American. ... The unlimited power of the
 sword is not in the hands of either the federal or the state governments,
 but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people."

 Note "unlimited." Note "every terrible instrument."

 Under the form of government that we're told Americans still enjoy, the
 government can exercise only those powers that are delegated to it by the
 people. You cannot delegate a right or power that you do not already
 possess. Therefore, if members of the U.S. Army have legitimate authority
 to "keep and bear" Uzis and nuclear weapons, they can only have gotten that
 right from the individual Americans who delegated it to them.

 It doesn't matter whether you "think this is a good idea." If you want to
 contend we now have a form of government in which our rulers start with all
 rights and powers, and allow to the peasantry only those lesser included
 liberties as they see fit, say so out loud now, please. And tell me when
 the original Constitution was voided, and by what legal process.

 Nor do we usually or necessarily abdicate a right when we delegate it: We
 delegate to police the duty to chase down fleeing felons, but each citizen
 retains the right to go ahead and do this himself if circumstances dictate.

 Similarly, the Second and 14th amendments guarantee that we have not given
 up our private, individual right to keep and bear howitzers and really big
 machine guns just because we have also delegated this right to the Army.

 Of particular interest is the fact that several of my questioners work in
 the newspaper business. How would they respond, I wonder, to the
 proposition that the First Amendment protects only the freedom to use
 old-fashioned hand presses -- that the Founders can't possibly have meant
 to authorize unrestricted use of today's far more dangerous, high-speed
 electrical presses, with their ability to spread lies and seditious,
 anti-government propaganda hundreds of times faster than Ben Franklin or
 James Madison could ever have imagined?

 *Speaking of my (necessarily brief) summary of the inquiries that have
 gutted the tired old "militia clause" arguments, noted Alabama
 constitutional attorney Larry Becraft writes in:

 "Vin, You did not mention: www.usdoj.gov/olc/secondamendment2.htm."

 Frankly, I'm cautious about using Department of Justice filings, because
 they're inherently political and could easily shift under some future
 Hillaryesque administration. Nonetheless, Larry does offer up an official
 DOJ memorandum of opinion, dated Aug. 24, 2004, which finds:

 "The Second Amendment secures a right of individuals generally, not a right
 of States or a right restricted to persons serving in militias. ... As
 developed in the analysis below, we conclude that the Second Amendment
 secures a personal right of individuals, not a collective right that may
 only be invoked by a State or a quasi-collective right restricted to those
 persons who serve in organized militia units.

 "The Amendment's prefatory clause, considered under proper rules of
 interpretation, could not negate the individual right recognized in the
 clear language of the operative clause. In any event, the prefatory clause
 -- particularly its reference to the 'Militia,' which was understood at the
 Founding to encompass all able-bodied male citizens, who were required to
 be enrolled for service -- is fully consistent with an individual-right
 reading of the operative language."

 *And speaking of lies and the credibility of the press, what about those
 Associated Press and CNN stories that kept echoing (often without
 attribution) the Democratic/organized labor talking point that the GOP
 Senate wanted to "slash $39 billion" (or whatever today's number is) from
 federal social programs?

 Would that it were so. One more time, guys: If the Republicans seek to
 "grow" a federal program at only 5 percent next year, instead of 5.5
 percent, that's not even a "cut," let alone a "slash." If you were hoping
 for a dollar-an-hour raise, and your boss only gave you a 90-cent-an-hour
 raise, and you went home and told your spouse, "My paycheck got cut," you
 would be ... what?


 Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal
 and author of "Send in the Waco Killers" and the new novel "The Black
 Arrow." His Web sites are www.TheLibertarian.us or www.LibertyBookShop.us.

 R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
 The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
 44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
 "... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
 [predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
 experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
 Clips mailing list
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R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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