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Who Will Speak for the Second Amendment? By: Richard Poe
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 04, 2001


A NEW WEB SITE has appeared called AshcroftGunWatch.org. Its purpose, according to a press release, is to expose Attorney General John Ashcroft’s "pro-gun activities and gun lobby ties." What it really exposes, however, is the deep hostility of its sponsor – the Violence Policy Center – toward our God-given liberties.

The site accuses Ashcroft of having expressed "a position on the Second Amendment that is in direct conflict with legal precedent, historical research, and established Justice Department policy."

What exactly did Ashcroft say? The site quotes a May 17, 2001 letter to National Rifle Association Executive Director James Jay Baker, in which Ashcroft writes: "…let me state unequivocally my view that the text and the original intent of the Second Amendment clearly protect the right of individuals to keep and bear firearms."

That is the statement which the Violence Policy Center (VPC) condemns.

AshcroftGunWatch.org continues: "Polls have consistently shown that a majority of the American public believes the Second Amendment guarantees a virtually unfettered right to arm oneself in defense of life and property… However, the facts fly in the face of public opinion. Historians, scholars, and most importantly the courts, have all but unanimously come down in favor of an interpretation that the amendment was created to protect state-organized militias rather than guarantee an individual right to own a firearm."

In short, the VPC has declared that individual Americans have no right to keep and bear arms. Period.

In one respect, VPC is correct. Leftwing scholars have waged a long and successful war against the Second Amendment, virtually erasing it from history and law books.

But while academia may be its ally, the Constitution stands squarely against the VPC.

On August 27, 1999, USA Today ran an article entitled, "Scholar’s Views on Arms Rights Anger Liberals."

It reported that Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe had shocked many colleagues by stating that individual Americans did indeed have a right to keep and bear arms.

"I’ve gotten an avalanche of angry mail from apparent liberals who said, `How could you?’" Tribe related.

His treason cut the Left with special keenness, not only because Tribe himself is a liberal, but because – in the words of USA Today – he is "probably the most influential living American constitutional scholar." Tribe’s treatise American Constitutional Law is a standard text in many law schools and has been cited over fifty times in Supreme Court opinions.

First published in 1978, earlier editions of Tribe’s treatise had consigned all discussion of the Second Amendment to a footnote. But Tribe corrected the oversight in a new edition published in 1999. "As someone who takes the Constitution seriously, I thought I had a responsibility to see what the Second Amendment says, and how it fits," Tribe explained.

His study of the issue led Tribe to conclude that the Constitution ensured to each American a right to "possess and use firearms in defense of themselves and their homes."

This modest assertion sufficed to send Tribe’s liberal colleagues into a whirl of rage and confusion.

In my view, USA Today missed the real story. The fact that Tribe had recognized a right to keep and bear arms was not so stunning. The real shocker was that a man called "the most influential living American constitutional scholar" had waited twenty years before doing so. For two decades, none of his colleagues seemed to notice or care about this glaring oversight in his treatise.

The disgraceful silence of Tribe’s colleagues has enabled the Violence Policy Center and groups like it to vilify Ashcroft and to write off Americans’ gun rights as a historical myth.

On September 2, 1939, as the German blitzkrieg steamrolled over Poland, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain disgusted and horrified Parliament by suggesting that England should talk peace.

Chamberlain had wrung his hands for months, while Hitler swallowed up one country after another. Now, as opposition leader Arthur Greenwood rose to dispute him, Leopold Amery cried, "Speak for England, Arthur!"

And speak he did.

As we celebrate this Independence Day, our Constitution is being steamrolled as brutally as the Germans crushed Poland in 1939.

Like Chamberlain, we have watched our rights swallowed up piecemeal, and have done nothing. We listen for our Greenwoods and Amerys, yet none arise.

Who will speak for the Second Amendment today? Who will speak for America?

Amid the hotdogs, parades and fireworks, an uneasy silence hangs over our land. No champion rises to speak on our behalf. It is we ourselves who must now take a stand.




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