Conservatives frequently and rightly accuse liberals of inconsistency in interpreting the federal Constitution, particularly on the Second Amendment.
The Second protects the “right to keep and bear arms,” the right-wingers quote our primordial document. Why aren’t the liberals, they ask, as fervent about that amendment as they are about the First Amendment, which protect the “right” to free speech.
An admonition: Conservatives should take the logs out of their own eyes. Then they would see that the Second does not forbid all anti-gun laws, and the federal Leviathan would be a lot smaller.
Conservatives have no more respect for the Constitution than liberals.
The discussion arises from the coming confrontation over the unconstitutional assault-weapons ban that Republicrat George W. Bush supports. However right the NRA is in this case, its members and Bush have a lot to learn about the Constitution.
For starters, the Constitution does not create “rights,” and neither does it “protect” them, at least the way most Americans believe. The Constitution does not “empower” the federal government in the liberal sense of “empower.”
It limits the federal government’s power by strictly defining its duties. The Bill of Rights, added at the insistence of anti-federalists such as Patrick Henry and George Mason, forbids the federal government, not state governments, from abridging what the framers believed were the natural and political rights of free-born Englishmen. Thus, they laid out a list of things neither Congress nor the federal government, can do.
As guns and original intent go, the Second prohibits Congress, not the states, from regulating guns.
All federal gun-control laws are flatly unconstitutional.
So, by the way, is most of the federal government, including this new Homeland Security department.
The Incorporation Doctrine
That’s an old-fashioned view.
In 1925, the Supreme Court decided the 14th Amendment “incorporates” the Bill of Rights into the laws of all 50 states. That gave the feds control of matters once the preserve of states, including gun laws, criminal convictions and civil lawsuits. Other ludicrous court dicta, such as those pertaining to the “commerce clause,” completed the federal coup against state sovereignty.
An irony about incorporation is this: If the liberals are right about the Constitution (they aren’t), state gun-control laws are unconstitutional because the Bill of Rights applies to the states. So conservatives, it seems, support the incorporation doctrine, which should be anathema to them.
If conservatives want to regain control of federal courts and the Leviathan bureaucracy, they must be consistent and accept state gun laws. They must reject the liberal view of the Constitution, which says that it’s a “living document” that must “evolve,” the ornate way of saying the Constitution means whatever the liberals say it means.
Conservatives must work to repeal not only the incorporation doctrine but also the rest of the Supreme Court’s unconstitutional “precedents,” as well as all legislation creating unconstitutional agencies such as the federal education department.
Admittedly, it is a task akin to cleaning the Augean stables.
But don’t expect it. So-called conservatives profit from unconstitutional programs. They buy votes with unconstitutional subsidies for everything from roads and farms to education, foreign aid and birth control.
Unconstitutional government empowers conservative politicians and lobbyists as much as it does liberals. So rather than dismantling Leviathan, conservatives vie for control of it.
The crucial issue here isn’t the Second Amendment. It’s the Constitution.
Conservatives have helped destroy it.
May 10, 2003
Syndicated columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va.