Saturday, March 10, 2007

of the people

When the preamble of the Constitution says "We the People", does it refer to all the people or does it refer only to those in the government who were writing the document?

When the First Amendment talks about "the right of the people peaceably to assemble," does it refer to all of the people or does it only convey that right to those that have submitted the proper forms to hold a rally or only to those in Free Speech Zones? When the Amendment goes on to say that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," does that apply to all religions equally or are some religions more equal than others? When it talks about the freedom of the Press, does that include bloggers or does it only apply to major media news organizations?

When the Fifth Amendment says "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury," does this apply to all people or does it only apply to those the government decides it should?

When the Fourth Ameddment says "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated," does this apply to all of the people?

So, if all of these rights "of the people" apply to everyone, why is it that it has taken two centuries for the courts to rule on the Second Amendment and say that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms" applies to everyone?

Ahhh, there is that pesky first part:

"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."

Many have taken the phrase "well regulated Militia" to mean that this only applies to the Militia, the Reserve or National Guard. This is simply not true.

Everything in the Bill of Rights is about individual rights. The Ninth Amendments spells it out in saying, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." These are all about the rights of the people that cannot be taken away and then says, in essence, "If we forgot to mention something that is generally considered Common Law and the rights of the people, then they are still rights."

The government doesn't grant us these rights, they are already ours and the Bill of Rights is spelling that out.

It would be absurd to include in this Bill of Rights a guarantee of the right of the government to have weapons for its army, and make no mistake, today's Guard and Reserve are part of the standing army. Just ask any reservist that has been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The 18th Century concept of the Militia was every able bodied male between the ages of 18 and 60 who could pick up a gun and defend his home or town from attack.

But finally, a Federal Appeals Court has ruled on the Second Amendment in overturning the Washington DC gun ban, saying the activities protected by the Second Amendment "are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent" on enrollment in a militia.

The Second Amendment, like all the other Amendments in the Bill of Rights, are the rights "of the People." Not just of some of the people. Not just for certain authorized arms of the government. All of us.

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