Self Governance is Under Attack, not just the Second Amendment

On Wednesday, Rasmussen Reports released the results of a poll revealing that only "74% of American Adults continue to believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of an average citizen to own a gun."  This finding is perplexing because the Constitution hasn't changed.  You can actually see it in the National Archives, and right there in the Bill of Rights you will find the Second Amendment.  It reads as follows:

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.

The language in the Second Amendment isn't vague or confusing.  Since only 74% of our fellow citizens believe that we have a constitutional right to own guns, it's safe to conclude that roughly a quarter of our population isn't familiar with our founding document and the principles that it sets forth.  That's disheartening because our forefathers fought and died to secure those rights for us, and we're in the process of frittering them away.

The Bill of Rights was included in the Constitution because the people demanded it.  They were fearful that the United States of America would become something altogether different from the nation that they fought to create unless those rights were specifically enumerated in the Constitution itself. 

As it turns out, their fears were justified.  One-by-one, our founding principles are coming under attack, and one-by-one, they are being abrogated.  For example, something as seemingly innocuous as healthcare has pitted the United States government against Christians throughout the nation thanks to Obamacare, and our First Amendment rights have been trampled upon.

The Federalist Papers is a collection of 85 essays that were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to convince the people of our fledgling country to support the Constitution.  They lay out the arguments for the creation of a form of government that Abraham Lincoln referred to as "of the people, by the people, and for the people" in his Gettysburg Address.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes...

The constitutional issues being decided upon today threaten to remake this nation into something that our Founding Fathers would not have tolerated, much less supported.  It's time for us to decide if we still believe in self governance.  If we do, are we willing to defend that governing principle?  Stated another way, is our country's government still of the people, by the people, and for the people, or is it a dictatorship?  The answer to those questions will determine the kind of nation that we leave to future generations.

History teaches that the world is full of tyrants who would like to control us.  Will we let them?


Neil Snyder is the Ralph A. Beeton Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog,, is posted daily.

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