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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

RE: Ammo Hording

By A. M. Johnson


April 13, 2013


It is obvious that Mike and I will not arrive at any middle ground on the subject of ammo. Mike prefers to rely on the info Congressman Young provided. Fine. That position allows me to interject a report to the public regarding the subject that I had requested from Representative Young's office and placed that request on a 10 day trace and so stated in a letter to Sitnews. To day a young staffer "Paul" representing Representative Young, responded by telephone. He advised that a number of House Republicans are not satisfied with the response received to Senator Coburn's specific request documenting the purchase and accumulation of this large ammo supply. It is my take away that the House will become more detailed in their request in the form of an audit on the purchases. Representative Young is support of the audit request. Let this serve as my confirmation that Representative Young did in deed, respond as reported.

One of Mike's response was to the right of an individual or State has a right to take up arms against our Government. His stance quoted "Our Constitution does not say that a person, or even a State, has a right to take up arms against our government" Now here is where Mike is flawed. He includes the ending of "if they disagree with a law." That last simply makes the argument worthless. While "A Law" issue could be challenged, the intend of the amendment is farther reaching. Rather than use words and terminology that may confuse I submit and leave the reading public the following excerpted from "History of the Second Amendment" by David E. Vandercoy.

A.M. (Al) Johnson
Ketchikan, AK

Received April 11, 2013 - Published April 13, 2013

Related Viewpoint:

letter RE: About the ammo hording By Mike Harpold


A. The Antifederalist View

Additional views on the relationship between freedom and arms were expressed when the Constitution was being submitted to the states for ratification. The Antifederalist views were stated in pamphlets entitled Letters (p.1024)from the Federal Farmer to the Republican.[133] Richard Henry Lee is credited with authorship.[134] The self-styled federal farmer thought of himself as a supporter of federalism and republicanism.[135] His view of federalism was not that set forth in the proposed Constitution of 1787. The federal farmer argued that a distant national government was antithetical to freedom:

[T]he general government, far removed from the people, and none of its members elected oftener than once in two years, will be forgot or neglected, and its laws in many cases disregarded, unless a multitude of officers and military force be continually kept in view, and employed to enforce the execution of the laws and to make the government feared and respected. No position can be truer than this, that in this country either neglected laws, or a military execution of them, must lead to revolution, and to the destruction of freedom. Neglected laws must first lead to anarchy and confusion; and a military execution of laws is only a shorter way to the same point--despotic government.[136]

The federal farmer also saw evil in Congress's power to raise an army, despite the two-year limit on money appropriations and the states' control over the militia via the appointment of officers.[137] He understood the need to provide for the common defense but believed an additional check was necessary. He proposed requiring two-thirds consent in Congress before a standing army could be raised or the militia could be pressed into service by the national government.[138] Additionally, the federal farmer argued that a select militia composed of less than all the people ought to be avoided. The farmer argued that, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.[139]

Another Antifederalist, George Mason, spoke on the relationship between (p.1025)arms and liberty. Mason asserted that history had demonstrated that the most effective way to enslave a people is to disarm them.[140] Mason suggested that divine providence had given every individual the right of self-defense, clearly including the right to defend one's political liberty within that term.[141]

Patrick Henry argued against ratification of the Constitution by Virginia, in part because the Constitution permitted a standing army and gave the federal government some control over the militia.[142] Henry objected to the lack of any clause forbidding disarmament of individual citizens; "the great object is that every man be armed .... Everyone who is able may have a gun."[143] The Antifederalists believed that governmental tyranny was the primary evil against which the people had to defend in creating a new Constitution. To preserve individual rights against such tyranny, the Antifederalists argued for the addition of a Bill of Rights which included, among other rights, the right to keep and bear arms.[144]

B. The Federalist View
The Federalists, those supporting the Constitution as drafted, did not dispute the premise that governmental tyranny was the primary evil that people had to guard against.[145] Nor did the Federalists dispute the nexus between (p.1026)arms and freedom.[146] In one of the first Federalist pamphlets, Noah Webster argued that the proposed Constitution provided adequate guarantees to check the dangers of any standing army.[147] His reasoning acknowledged checks and balances, but did not rely on the same. Rather, Webster argued:

Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every Kingdom of Europe. The Supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.[148]

Similarly, James Madison made clear that, although the proposed Constitution offered sufficient guarantees against despotism by its checks and balances, the real deterrent to governmental abuse was the armed population.[149] To the Antifederalist criticism of the standing army as a threat to liberty, Madison replied:

To these [the standing army] would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from amongst themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by government possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops .... Besides the advantage of being armed, which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are (p.1027)attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.[150]

Another leading Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, voiced a similar view.[151] Hamilton suggested that if the representations of the people, elected under the proposed Constitution, betrayed their constituents, the people retained the right to defend their political rights and possessed the means to do so.[152]

In summary, both Federalists and Antifederalists believed that the main danger to the republic was tyrannical government and the ultimate check on tyrannical government was an armed population.[153] Federalists and Antifederalists disagreed, however, on several issues. First, they disagreed as to whether sufficient checks and balances had been placed on the proposed national government to control the danger of oppression.[154] Second, the Antifederalists believed a bill of rights should be incorporated into the Constitution to guarantee certain rights.[155] The Federalists argued that such a bill of rights was unnecessary because the power of the federal government was restricted to the grant of authority provided by the Constitution.[156] There was no need to (p.1028)provide exceptions to powers not granted.[157] Further, the Federalists argued that providing exceptions to powers not granted was dangerous because it could encourage a claim that powers not expressly stated had been granted.[158] Again, both sides not only agreed that the people had a right to be armed, both sides assumed the existence of an armed population as an essential element to preserving liberty. The framers quite clearly had adopted James Harrington's political theory that the measure of liberty attained and retained was a direct function of an armed citizenry's ability to claim and hold those rights from domestic and foreign enemies.[159]



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