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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit
Author: TriSec    Date: 03/06/2018 10:40:48

Good Morning.

I’ve been pondering the Bill of Rights recently. Ever since the events of 14 February, many have chosen to hide behind that marvelous prose as some kind of God-Given right.
I was particularly galled by the recent statement of Wayne LaPierre that the second amendment was given to Americans by God as "our American birthright."



National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has stated that the Second Amendment was given to Americans by God as "our American birthright."
LaPierre spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday morning, a week after the Parkland, Florida school shooting that resulted in 17 deaths.
During his remarks, LaPierre argued that the right to own a firearm is the greatest freedom guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

"There is no greater personal individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive," stated LaPierre.

"It's not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright. So I call right now today on every citizen who loves this country and who treasures this freedom to stand and unflinchingly defend the Second Amendment, the one freedom that protects us all."

LaPierre also spoke on issues aside from the gun control debate, such as his belief that socialism is advancing in America and that radicals are curbing conservatives' First Amendment rights.

"Socialists oppose all of our most fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights. They don't like free speech any more than they like the Second Amendment," LaPierre said.

"They like only limited speech. Controlled speech. Controlled by them through safe speech zones where they can shame the outspoken or riot to shut them up. If you still think we have full First Amendment freedom in this country, try going right now out to Berkeley and speaking out in favor of conservative causes."



Is it, now?

Well, being the scholar that I am, I carefully perused the Bible Gateway site, and I was unable to locate any such reference to our creator giving us the right to bear arms. I went so far as to check a competing text, and within the Koran I found the following:


[4.102] And when you are among them and keep up the prayer for them, let a party of them stand up with you, and let them take their arms; then when they have prostrated themselves let them go to your rear, and let another party who have not prayed come forward and pray with you, and let them take their precautions and their arms; (for) those who disbelieve desire that you may be careless of your arms and your luggage, so that they may then turn upon you with a sudden united attack, and there is no blame on you, if you are annoyed with rain or if you are sick, that you lay down your arms, and take your precautions; surely Allah has prepared a disgraceful chastisement for the unbelievers.


Somewhat loosely, I can interpret that as being ever-vigilant and to not lay down our arms, lest our enemies pretend to stand with us and try to seize them. So I suppose that can be interpreted as a God-Given right, but just not from the “correct” God.

But that got me thinking – where does this right come from in the first place?

Of course, the Bill of Rights was established as a condition for certain states to ratify the Constitution in the first place, chief among them our fair Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


In December 1787 and January 1788, five states—Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut—ratified the Constitution with relative ease, though the bitter minority report of the Pennsylvania opposition was widely circulated. In contrast to its predecessors, the Massachusetts convention was angry and contentious, at one point erupting into a fistfight between Federalist delegate Francis Dana and Anti-Federalist Elbridge Gerry when the latter was not allowed to speak. The impasse was resolved only when revolutionary heroes and leading Anti-Federalists Samuel Adams and John Hancock agreed to ratification on the condition that the convention also propose amendments. The convention's proposed amendments included a requirement for grand jury indictment in capital cases, which would form part of the Fifth Amendment, and an amendment reserving powers to the states not expressly given to the federal government, which would later form the basis for the Tenth Amendment.

Following Massachusetts' lead, the Federalist minorities in both Virginia and New York were able to obtain ratification in convention by linking ratification to recommended amendments. A committee of the Virginia convention headed by law professor George Wythe forwarded forty recommended amendments to Congress, twenty of which enumerated individual rights and another twenty of which enumerated states' rights. The latter amendments included limitations on federal powers to levy taxes and regulate trade.


Despite those rights coming in a numeric order, there is no primacy to them, and no ranking of one above another. Because they were additions to an existing document, they had to be enumerated somehow, and the right to bear arms being #2 is mere coincidence. It could just as easily been #5.


Ultimately, on September 25, 1789, Congress approved twelve articles of amendment to the Constitution, each consisting of one one-sentence paragraph, and submitted them to the states for ratification. Contrary to Madison's original proposal that the articles be incorporated into the main body of the Constitution, they were proposed as supplemental additions (codicils) to it. Articles Three through Twelve were ratified as additions to the Constitution on December 15, 1791, and became Amendments One through Ten of the Constitution. Article Two became part of the Constitution on May 5, 1992, as the Twenty-seventh Amendment. Article One is technically still pending before the states.


So, I’m afraid there is no “God-Given Right” to keep and bear arms. It was written by mortal man, James Madison. The right in question is based on older documentation in the Virginia Declaration of Rights…also written by a mortal, George Mason.


Section 13. That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to 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.


But reading further into our founding documents, there are some things enumerated that were “endowed by our Creator” and are furthermore qualified as “unalienable Rights”.

But even then, it’s a bit of a stretch. Back at the trusty Bible Gateway, the only reference to a right to life is the ubiquitous “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. The word Liberty appears in the Bible some 16 times, but it is mostly associated with freeing slaves and declaring liberty among them. (Of course, the Founding Fathers would be having none of that.) And Pursuit of Happiness seems to be a more nebulous concept among the followers of Christ Jesus.

So it would seem to me that there is a great disconnect concerning where our rights come from. Thomas Jefferson, also a mortal man, seems to be the only source for declaring that the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” fall under the umbrella of the creator. As I noted, Mortals James Madison and George Mason where the ones to grant us the right to bear arms, but only under the auspices of a well-regulated militia. Both of them went so far as to caution us against the evils of maintaining a standing army, advice that has gone unlistened these centuries later.

But there is – “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. Are the rights enumerated in the Constitution higher or lower than those rights granted by the Creator, according to Thomas Jefferson?

Your right to bear arms should end at my right to live and pursue my happiness. It is unfortunate that these two things now seem to be mutually exclusive in These United States.

 

30 comments (Latest Comment: 03/06/2018 20:18:30 by Scoopster)
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