Protecting citizens' rights
When considering whether to ratify the proposed Constitution of the United States, a number of the former colonies expressed concern that the proposed new national charter failed to provide enough of a safeguard against the federal government developing into a tyrannical regime trampling the rights of the people in much the same manner as did Great Britain.
Thus was born the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments clearly defining what no future government could take away from “We the People” and placing strict limits on its power.
After first securing our religious freedom, right to free speech, freedom to assembly and the right to petition government, the Framers of the Bill of Rights added an enforcement mechanism: the Second Amendment, which states in plain language that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The new nation was born out of armed conflict with what had been the pre-eminent military power of the age. Our Founding Fathers were keenly aware of the fact that the greatest protection against tyranny was an armed populace.
Today we are engaged in a great battle over whether this firewall against tyranny will stand. At all levels of government, an epic struggle is taking place over whether this most basic American right will survive for another generation. The stakes could not be higher, for if this right is abridged, the ability of the people to defend themselves against their own government will be gone — and it won't be long before the entire Bill of Rights is consigned to the dust bin of history.
The United Nations recently approved an Arms Trade Treaty. This gun ban, were it to be ratified, would effectively nullify the Second Amendment. Fortunately, there is virtually no chance the U.S. Senate will ratify the pact. Ratification requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, and — if public pressure continues to be exerted — even a simple majority will not be possible.
It is at the national and state levels where our rights face their greatest threat. Acting upon former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's dictum that no good crisis should go to waste, President Obama has shamelessly played upon the victims of the Connecticut school shooting to advance his gun-control measures. It appears the more restrictive of those measures lack the votes for passage. But, rights are more often lost by a continual chipping away rather than by outright taking.
Meanwhile, a number of states — Connecticut, New York and Colorado, most noticeably — have passed restrictive and likely unconstitutional gun-control measures. Federal litigation is sure to follow, and many of these provisions will be struck down. Here in Pennsylvania, where we are known for “clinging” to our guns, new laws are not only unlikely but would violate Article I, Section 21 of the state Constitution, which says the right of the people to keep and bear arms “shall not be questioned.” It would be a violation of a legislator's oath of office — and an impeachable offense — to even introduce gun-control measures.
Thomas Jefferson observed that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” While always true, the need for vigilance and citizen involvement in defense of our liberty have seldom been as necessary and as crucial to the survival of a free nation as they are today.
Lowman S. Henry is chairman and CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Volkswagen crashes through convenience store in Aliquippa
- Saxonburg man pleads no contest to setting boy, 7, on fire
- Steelers hoping that youth movement breathes life into team
- Pirates expect high prices in trade market
- Police: Westmoreland women stole thousands to pay for dog show hobby
- Steelers notebook: Team hasn’t called on Keisel, Harrison yet
- Dollar Bank says URA didn’t talk about restrictions on use of August Wilson Center
- McCandless OKs land development plan for potential Wal-Mart
- 2 killed in East Huntingdon crash
- Peduto says city dropped UPMC lawsuit to help nonprofit payment talks
- Pirates’ Worley tosses 4-hit shutout vs. Giants