In response to Pauline Polete's Feb. 28 letter, in which she criticizes protecting lawful possession of weapons and the interference of women of an abortion clinic, I would like to remind all those who slept through government class that gun ownership is explicitly protected by the Constitution of the U.S.
The 2nd Amendment states that I have a lawful right to own one. And in-as-much as it is a guaranteed right I question the constitutionality of laws requiring its citizenry to obtain a weapons permit. If I choose to carry one I am acting within my rights, while knowing if I am is not one of your rights.
With regard to abortion, it is only through the rulings of would-be dictators dressed in judges' robes, accountable to no one and acting outside the powers granted them by the Constitution of the U.S. that such fanatical and horrendous rights might be given. The Constitution does not give anyone the right to abortion, regardless of the circumstances in which it was conceived or would be born into.
Michael R. Mongar, Sioux Falls
Where to begin, where to begin...
Let's start with the mostly polite reply that I sent off to the paper this very day:
The author of a recent letter in the Argus Leader asserts, for the benefit of "all those who slept through government class," that "gun ownership is explicitly protected by the Constitution of the U.S." and that "the 2nd Amendment states that I have a lawful right to own one."
Well, here's what the Second Amendment has to say:
"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."
That's it. The whole enchilada. Certainly not much "explicit" there. Nothing about guns at all--just "arms." Also, nothing about an individual's right to bear arms just "the people," which, given the reference to "militia," some scholars interpret to mean the states' right to raise militias, not the individual's right to own guns.
It's not enough to just stay awake during class: It's also helpful to read the material before you start asserting what it does and does not say.
A model of restraint, no?
The local rag has a pretty draconian limit on letters' length--200, they say, although frequently the editors violate that rule, which I guess is an editor's prerogative--so there's a lot that I didn't say in my well-crafted rebuttal. F'rinstance:
+ If the Second Amendment does in fact guarantee gun ownership, how does the state's requiring a gun permit fly in the face of the amendment? Certainly no one could seriously argue that needing a permit somehow constitutes "infringement" as mentioned in the amendment.
+ I skipped the whole abortion angle--partly because of the 200-word limit, partly to try to unmuddy the waters a little. However. Does it not amuse that the letter's author uplifts the Constitution as a sacred text when it comes to his owning guns but implicitly tramples it underfoot when it comes to his "would-be dictators dressed in judges' robes"--the independent judiciary being, yes, explicitly delineated in the Constitution? How very similar to right-wing extremists' attitude toward the Bible: sacred, holy, and inarguably infallible when it says what they want it to say, easily ignored when it does not.
+ Of course, it is "only through the rulings of would-be dictators dressed in judges' robes, accountable to no one and acting outside the powers granted them by the Constitution of the U.S. that such fanatical and horrendous rights might be given"--that is, the right to own anything that goes bang. Oh, wait, he was talking about abortion, wasn't he? How embarrassing. So let me see if I have this right: Judges are good when they interpret the rather poorly written Second Amendment to mean gun ownership by individuals, bad when they interpret law and tradition to uphold a woman's right to choose what to do with her body. Got it. I think.
+ He says, "The Constitution does not give anyone the right to abortion, regardless of the circumstances in which it was conceived or would be born into." Again like the Bible, the Constitution says and doesn't say a lot of things. Most religions that espouse the Judeo-Christian scriptures rely also on traditions and interpretations that have been made by their institutions over the centuries. So it is with the Constitution--for all but the most wild-eyed strict-constructionist right-wingers: U.S. law is founded on the Constitution and must not be contrary to it (unconstitutional, in a word)--but the document is not all there is to the law. Nor should it be.
I am reminded of a similarly ill-educated letter-writer from the days when I was an editor of TWA Ambassador magazine. I don't recall the context, but she was pretty hot about something someone had said in an article, and concluded her diatribe with, "Whatever happened to government by the people, for the people, of the people? Doesn't anyone read the Constitution anymore?" My spoilsport boss wouldn't let me run it with the obvious answer, viz., "Apparently not, since you just quoted the Gettysburg Address."
A little knowledge really is a dangerous thing!