From Philosophy to Action
We’ve been discussing the right to keep and bear arms in previous posts (on philosophy and the current problem), but it’s not enough to show we are being wronged. We need to DO something about it! We will take action to solve the problem.
Libertarians possess a wide variety of philosophies. In one dimension, these range from a philosophy of limited government to full-on anarchism. I’m simplifying, but while some of the limited government Libertarians are constitutionalists, notable anarcho-capitalists see the US Constitution as a power grab that centralized power. They aren’t the first to see it this way.
The Anti-Federalists, individuals who vocally opposed ratification, identified issues with the document that would lead to expansive powers. Though they were right about quite a number of issues, it’s not a great move to ditch the US Constitution outright. There are flaws, but strict adherence to the US Constitution would result in a much smaller government.
We won’t make our way from increasingly tyrannical government to an idealistic republic or an anarchic utopia in one big step. We need to pursue an incremental approach to be effective. Thomas Jefferson stated it well.
The ground of liberty is to be gained by inches. We must be contented to secure what we can get from time to time and eternally press forward for what is yet to get.Thomas Jefferson, from a letter to Charles Clay, 27 Jan 1790
A Constitutional Approach
We can claim our rights, including the right to keep and bear arms, from their true source as natural rights. They did not originate in a government document. However, the US Constitution did set up what was once a very free and prosperous country. With its flaws, it still represented a world-leading set of principles that turned the traditional relationship of people and government on its head.
Every politician and public servant swears an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. It is the foundation of law that established the United States and demanding that politicians and public servants follow the US Constitution is certainly a step toward liberty. Our philosophy may go beyond the US Constitution, but the document provides a blueprint and solid legal cover peaceful resistance. An approach that limits government in the short-term and moves our culture in a liberty-oriented direction.
The Basis for Nullification
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the US Constitution were included in the Bill of Rights. The Ninth Amendment, in its entirety, reads:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.The Ninth Amendment to the US Constitution
In very clear terms, it states that the Bill of Rights is not an exhaustive list. The US Constitution, as amended, recognizes that human rights are broad and expansive. This philosophy flows nicely into the Tenth Amendment, which reads:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.The Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution
The Ninth Amendment states that the people’s rights are expansive. At the same time, the federal government’s powers are limited to those stated in the US Constitution. The federal government does not possess undelegated powers. The Founders made clear statements about this, including James Madison.
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.James Madison in Federalist #45
Acts passed by the federal government that are not based on constitutionally-delegated powers are not constitutional. The states did not delegate those powers to the federal government when they created it. As Alexander Hamilton stated:
There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #78
Alexander Hamilton wasn’t exactly the beacon of liberty for the Founders’ generation, but his statement about limited government explains their intent. At this point, the right of American citizens to resist unconstitutional federal power is very clear. Their rights are broad and the federal government’s powers are narrow. Standing up and saying no to unconstitutional power is the definition of nullification. For further reading, please see the Tenth Amendment Center’s overview of nullification. They are constitutional libertarian experts who know this topic better than anybody else I’m aware of.
Our Local Actions
The preceding discussion makes a clear case for the nullification of unconstitutional federal laws. Simply reading the US Constitution, as amended, brings two important facts to light:
- The US Constitution grants no power to the federal government, whatsoever, to restrict weapons including firearms. No delineated power exists in the document!
- The Second Amendment states, in its entirety “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.” Infringement is not only a power that was not granted, it is expressly forbidden!
This presents a prima facie case for nullifying federal gun laws.
The Tenth Amendment Center has supported nullification efforts across the country. They’ve covered topics ranging from marijuana legalization to halting the surveillance state. They’ve learned what works and have assembled a model legislation library. This is a logical starting point for any legislative action against federal overreach.
Our best immediate push is to pass legislation in one or more cities for a Gun Rights Sanctuary using Tenth Amendment Center’s model legislation. Then we will build similar legislation at the county level.
Straying from the model legislation can have serious consequences for any laws that are passed. We need to avoid the pitfalls experienced by Yamhill County, Oregon as covered in the important video by Michael Boldin below.
One of our neighboring counties will likely suffer similar pitfalls if their “Second Amendment Sanctuary” is taken to court. Clermont County’s Sanctuary law has structural issues similar to Yamhill County’s. The commissioners of Clermont County have their hearts in the right place and I want them to succeed in defending the right to keep and bear arms. However, we should not model our efforts on theirs.
Our State-Level Actions
Once the gun sanctuary movement spreads across Ohio, the grassroots level of support will pave the way for introducing nullification at the state level. The Tenth Amendment Center’s model legislation to ban enforcement or support of any federal gun control is an excellent starting point.
What About Ohio’s Laws?
This actions above don’t begin to deal with Ohio’s horrible gun laws. Though a “Constitutional Carry” law was passed in Ohio, all of the restrictions on concealed handgun licenses are now applied to individuals carrying without a license. Many citizens who think they can now carry legally may be in serious legal peril if they aren’t aware. See our blog post where we supported SB215, but with some reservations. We summarized those pitfalls and I recommend seeking legal advice if you are unsure what limitations apply to you.
I believe that pursuing local sanctuaries and nullification at the state level will lead to awareness of the issue. Awareness will lead to pressure on local politicians to defend our rights against state-level tyranny and momentum will result in a combination of pushback against state laws and further changes to Ohio’s gun laws.
We need your help to pursue activism here in Warren County. There are steps that anyone can take to support this topic and others pursued by the Libertarian Party of Warren County:
- Join actions protecting the right to keep and bear arms! Contact me directly mark.marasch(at)lpo.org
- Are there other topics you’d prefer to pursue? Take our survey to share your views.
- Come to our meetings. We meet at Doc’s in Lebanon on the second Wednesday of each month at 7:00 pm. We complete our business meetings quickly (30-60 minutes), and move onto the truly important business of our social. It’s a great time for open discussion on issues and to meet with like-minded people.
- Share your talents and interests! Let us know what you can do and what interests you. Your unique capabilities can enhance liberty.
- Donate to the Libertarian Party of Warren County
- Join the Libertarian Party of Ohio
- Join the national Libertarian Party