LETTER from DAVID ROWLEY
To the Editor:
In his recent Letter to the Editor, Mr. Anderson suggested that “arguably the most important amendments in the Bill of Rights are the first and second”. He was half right.
Clearly, the First Amendment, which guarantees our inalienable rights or basic freedoms, distinguishes a democratic nation like the United States from – as Jefferson believed in 1776 – the King of Great Britain. It is, in fact, the direct philosophical link to the Declaration of Independence.
I tend to believe that the majority of the U.S. citizenry – namely women – would argue that the 19th Amendment (Women’s Suffrage) has an edge on the Second. It appears we need to be reminded that James Madison’s Bill of Rights (ratified by the States in 1791) became part of the Constitution in a nation governed by white male property owners.
African-Americans might object to Mr. Anderson’s assertions about the Second Amendment by citing the importance of the Civil War Amendments – Amendments Thirteen/Abolition of Slavery, Fourteen/Incorporation or application of the Bill of Rights to States and Fifteen/Black Suffrage.
I would argue that universal application of equal protection of the law is the core foundation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, i.e., the essence of our democracy.
The old adage, that you can determine if a nation is a democracy by checking the prisons for political prisoners, would seem to support the case for Amendments Four, Five and Six. Of course, maybe I am overstating the significance of protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to due process of law and the assurance of a public trial by an impartial jury.
The doctrine of Judicial Review was established by the Marshal Court in Marbury v. Madison (1803) and, consequently, for over two centuries, laws passed by a Legislative Branch and actions by an Executive Branch have been subject to a Court review
of their constitutionality.
With regard to the Second Amendment, I would suggest that District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) is the most compelling case to review because the majority opinion was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, who is considered one of the more influential “originalists” and “textualists” in the history of the Supreme Court.
The Court ruled that the District of Columbia could not ban handguns and it protected an individual’s right to possess a firearm when not in the militia because the term “militia” was meant (by Madison, according to Scalia)) to refer to “the body of all citizens”.
However, Justice Scalia also wrote: “The right (to possess firearms) is not unlimited, it is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The Court also recognized “the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons”.
It is undeniable that the rights of citizens protected under the umbrella of the Second Amendment may be limited – constitutionally – by a Legislative Branch of Government. The manner to redress a grievance against what is arguably a flawed piece of legislation (the Safe Act) is best carried out in the voting booth or in the courts.
The proposal to make Otsego County a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” is just as flawed as Mr. Anderson’s original and grossly overstated assertion about the importance of the Second Amendment. As a lifelong gun owner, I believe this hyper focus on the Second Amendment is tantamount to intellectual tomfoolery.
DAVID P. ROWLEY