On Saving the Bill of Rights

Note from Jim Shepherd, Editor of The Outdoor Wire: We first met Frank Miniter at the United States Supreme Court during the historic arguments that preceded the Second Amendment affirming Heller decision. At that time, I didn't know he was already involved in writing a book which documents our gradual surrender of our rights to a government that seems intent on controlling every aspect of our lives. Today, I'm reading Miniter's effort -Saving the Bill of Rights - and I asked him to give our readers an insight into the ways we're slowly allowing our rights to erode. I think you'll find it thought-provoking as we move into the celebration of Independence Day, 2011.

by Frank Miniter

We're losing our Bill of Rights. The reason why is so basic it's overlooked; though Thomas Jefferson warned us about this threat to individual liberty when he wrote, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Jefferson said this in a letter to Colonel Charles Yancey on January 6, 1816. It was the basic truth that we can't retain our liberty unless we first grasp it that impelled me to write Saving the Bill of Rights.

After two years spent in the National Archives researching our founding documents and after interviewing top legal minds and historians, it's clear to me we need to heed Jefferson's warning, as the average American's ignorance of our Bill of Rights is what's allowing the federal government to steamroll over so many of our individual liberties. So as we approach Independence Day in what Francis Scott Key's "Star-Spangled Banner" called "the land of the free and the home of the brave!" I'm hoping people will pick up, if not my book, then at least the U.S. Constitution and acquaint themselves with the basis of our freedom.

Just consider what would have happened if the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and so many others hadn't tirelessly educated, not just their members, but also legislators and the general public about what the Second Amendment clearly protects. If this education hadn't occurred, more lawmakers (and more judges) would have gone along with the Left's lie that the Second Amendment only protects now outdated state militias. Without this fight against ignorance we would have lost our individual right to bear arms. In fact, even with all the historical evidence clearly showing the Second Amendment is an individual right, the U.S. Supreme Court still voted 5-4. And this right could still be lost to the semantic spin of anti-gun activists if just one "conservative" Supreme Court justice is replaced by a "liberal" one.

The same understanding needs to be fostered to build buttresses around our First Amendment's right to the freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion; for the Fourth Amendment's protection of "persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures"; for the Fifth Amendment's protection of our property-which was weakened by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 in Kelo v. New London-and for all the rest of our rights up to and including the Tenth Amendment's exclamation point on the fact that the federal government is restricted to its enumerated powers as listed in the Constitution.

In just one quick example of how ignorance of our Constitution can give an opening to the Left, consider Time magazine's current cover, which asks if the Constitution "still matters." Time magazine's managing editor, Richard Stengel, wrote the cover story. In it he claims, "If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it certainly doesn't say so." This statement made me exclaim, "Has Stengel even read the Constitution?" After all, if he had, he'd have seen that the Tenth Amendment says, "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 federal government was clearly designed to be a limited government; after all, why even write a Constitution unless to grant specific powers to the federal government.

Stengel is obviously relying on the fact that most Americans haven't read the Constitution and so will just believe him. We can't let them get away with this. As Jefferson said, we must not be ignorant of what our Constitution protects. If freedom matters, then the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) matters.

In fact, the Tenth Amendment matters now more than ever. This is because ObamaCare's individual mandate which stipulates that we all must purchase federally approved health insurance by 2014 massively expands federal power and, if left standing by the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress, would bleed the Tenth Amendment to dead letters.

President Barack Obama nevertheless says the Constitution's "Commerce Clause" can be used to force us to buy a product; he argues that the government's power to regulate "Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States..." is a broad enough power for the federal government to mandate that we make an active decision by purchasing health insurance. If the federal government is allowed to stray this far outside its Constitution-as Time magazine wants them to do-then it could conceivably mandate that everyone buy a Chevy Volt or, for that matter, anything else an imaginative bureaucrat might think would be in the best interest of the nation.

To put this in historical perspective, consider that when Paul Revere and about 70 others dressed as Indians in 1773 and dumped thousands of pounds of tea into the Boston harbor in what became known as the "Boston Tea Party," they weren't just doing this because they opposed a tax on tea, they were also opposed to a monopoly given to the British East India Company to sell tea.

Now with that history in mind, consider that the Left is now arguing that the Constitution these Colonial Americans were really fighting for would empower a federal government that could not only mandate that Americans buy tea, but for a government that could make people buy tea from only a specific private company.

Is it conceivable that the Founders would create such an all-powerful government?

So given this historical context, can any person who understands our founding documents really believe the Constitution gives the federal government the power to mandate we buy a product? Though it clearly doesn't; however, the Obama Administration is hoping that enough people are so ignorant of the Constitution that a majority of us will let this big, fat lie slip through.

So as we close in on Independence Day once again, please reacquaint yourself with the Bill of Rights by checking out Saving the Bill of Rights.

As for Jefferson, from the hindsight of history it now doesn't seem like a coincidence that both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson passed away on July 4, 1826; in fact, as we hold onto to our individual liberty by making sure we first understand it, let's all raise a glass to the Founders on July 4 and say, "Yes, our constitutional freedoms still matter."

Frank Miniter's book "Saving the Bill of Rights" is available on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Saving-Bill-Rights-Exposing-Exceptionalism/dp/1596...

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