The immediate reactions and emotion surrounding President Barack Obama’s latest round of executive actions (notice how no one calls them executive orders anymore) have subsided.
Much ink and hot air have been used to both excoriate and defend the president and the nation has once again been whipped into a terribly divided people.
Other columns will tell you that he’s infringing on a constitutional right, that the facts don’t bear out his conclusion, that he’s a hypocrite because of his stance on abortion, and so on. They all tell you how it is bad, and they are probably right, but they don’t tell you why.
So yes, his executive actions on guns are unconstitutional, we understand that. But why is that bad? What makes the Constitution so sacred that nothing can be done on gun control?
President Barack Obama delivers a statement on executive actions to reduce gun violence on January 5, 2016 at the White House in Washington, DC. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
To understand why this is bad, we would have to first understand the value of the Constitution. One big question, which is not addressed nearly enough in political discourse, is this:
What’s the point of the Constitution?
This question is the difference between freedom and tyranny, or rather, the willingness to ask this question and seek out its answer is the difference between the two.
We spend so much time debating it, its limits and rules that we rarely ever examine its value and why it is important and central to America. Among all of the disconnects between political sides and generations, the value of the Constitution is perhaps chief among them.
I contend that there is one primary purpose of the Constitution, a central objective that it seeks to achieve and all of its mechanisms are in place and necessary to achieving it.
We first have to look at the Declaration of Independence though. To really understand the purpose of the Constitution, we must start with the problems it sought to correct and ultimately avoid. We begin at the genesis of our country and the biggest grievance which led to our revolt.
From the Declaration, it is obvious to see that we declared our independence and fought a bloody Revolutionary War because the government in England had become tyrannical to the colonies and were no longer protecting them and their rights. But before they laid out what had become so terrible about England, they first indicated what the point of governments was in the first place:
“That to secure these rights (life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and more) Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed.”
Right here, in plain black and white, is the purpose of and reason why governments exist - to secure our rights. The very people who will be governed grant the government certain powers in order that their rights will be secured and protected.
The very next sentence states that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”
The point of the government is to secure the rights of its people, and this was so definitive and central to the responsibility of government that the founders risked their lives by stating that if any government no longer upholds that duty, it should be changed or abolished. So central is that responsibility that it alone would be cause for revolution.
This is why we revolted against England and took the incredible risk of declaring independence from the mightiest country in the world.
And this is why the Constitution was structured as it is. The founders declared that governments are created to protect and secure the rights of its citizens. England had become destructive of those ends and so we revolted against them and won our independence. What was set up in the Constitution was a government meant to fulfill that very purpose, first and foremost.
Our constitution was written with this very specific objective in mind. Everything from the separation of powers, both horizontally and vertically, to the checks and balances, to the specific enumeration of powers was for one overarching purpose - to protect and secure our rights as citizens.
This is the point of the Constitution and everything contained in it is for this purpose. Everything it does is for this end, directly or indirectly.
Even with all of these restrictions on the federal government, the states and people of America did not believe that it was explicit or protective enough of their rights as new Americans. So rather than just leave it to chance or hope that it worked, the Bill of Rights was drafted and ratified, listing numerous rights that were to be protected by the government it created - the very purpose of government from their own words.
And this brings us to the right to keep and bear arms. To be very clear, the right to keep and bear arms is not a constitutional right. Yes, you read that right. The right to keep and bear arms is NOT a constitutional right.
The Constitution did not create this right and therefore cannot claim it as its own. What the Constitution does is acknowledge that this right exists, was given to us by a power that is not only far greater than government (God) but also pre-dates the creation of our government, and tells the government in no uncertain terms that they cannot infringe upon that God-given right. The Second Amendment is not a constitutional right, it is a constitutionally protected right, a distinction with a big difference.
Now knowing the ultimate purpose and point of the Constitution - to protect and secure our rights - we can easily understand not how, but why Obama’s actions are bad and quite frankly, dangerous to every American.
No part of the Constitution is put there arbitrarily or to simply frustrate the march of “progress.” Each of its parts all work together to protect and secure your rights and the rights of everyone in this country, both left and right, both First and Second Amendments. Those parts are in place to protect the rights of the citizens; not from other citizens, but from their own government. As history has repeatedly shown, this is where the greatest threat lies.
So when any of those parts is violated or even ignored, then the entire objective, the entire purpose of the Constitution is diminished; its ability to protect your rights, hobbled.
Obama’s action both indirectly and directly jeopardizes the protection of our rights as Americans by violating the very thing that was created to protect them. His actions violate the horizontal separation of powers as Congress is the only branch given the power to legislate and modify legislation. They also violate the Second Amendment itself, infringing upon a God-given unassailable right and further morphing it into a regulated and government controlled privilege.
We don’t value the Constitution because we just love history and tri-corner hats. We value and respect it because it is there to protect what should never be taken away from us and to preserve that which we are endowed.
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