The Publisher’s Desk – March 17, 2018

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CONSTITUTIONALLY SPEAKING – PART 2 – Federalism

by Joe Tortorici

US Constitution

In the first segment of this series, we realized the genius of our Constitution. In little more than fifty words exists a summary of our governmental structure. The three conditions put forth in the Preamble are: an unambiguous statement of sovereignty, a framework for control of the constitutional agenda, and an awareness of time. “We the People” give form to the efforts of our representatives, for our immediate needs and those of our descendants. Everything that follows embodies the detail required to meet those ends.

You had to know this was going to happen:

GOP Candidate for Maine’s 57th Congressional District, Les Gibson, a lifetime NRA member, took to Twitter to attack Parkland student Emma Gonzalez after seeing an article in The Hill about the teen surpassing the NRA in Twitter followers.

“There is nothing about this skinhead lesbian that impresses me and there is nothing that she has to say unless you’re a frothing at the mouth moonbat.” he wrote. So much for my declaration of liberal/progressive outrage at such a comment. We are not here for that. What followed is the core of this article.

“I am very passionate about protecting our constitutional rights from those who seek their elimination.” Gibson said. (Gibson has since submitted a written apology to Emma Gonzalez, and deactivated his public Twitter account.)

Constitutional rights, indeed. The context of this statement renders it patently false. In this case, I sense an abundance of political expediency and “raw meat” to the gun-culture. Why do so many people get this wrong? Let’s re-visit the Constitution.

While the Declaration of Independence brimmed with inspiration and élan, the Constitution was written in contemporary language, not cryptic legalese, with the objectives of organizing a democratic, stable, and limited central government. The modern rights-focused and court-centered perspective was emphatically not the founder’s viewpoint. It’s worthy to note they were dismissive of the political party system as well. (Federalist #10 – Factions)

Our Constitution introduced three unique innovations: the separation of powers, judicial review of legislative actions, and Federalism. In the last eighteen months we can thank the concept of “judicial review” for keeping the ship-of-state afloat. The draconian proposals made by the current administration regarding immigration, for one, have been held at bay by the courts. There remains a great deal of misunderstanding about “Federalism.”

Life in the urban haunts of Illinois are far different from those in Parkland, Florida. Local laws banning possession assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in the metro area of Chicago are strident, more so than the laws governing the same items in central Florida. Yet we exist with the same basic set of rules provided under law. The differences are primarily those of a federalist system. States have rights. Federal powers are enumerated and limited.

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Justice Antonin Scalia

The landmark Supreme Court Second Amendment case, District of Columbia v. Heller2008, protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. In his majority opinion, conservative lion Antonin Scalia specifically states private ownership of military/assault style weaponry is NOT protected by the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment does not forbid the ownership of these weapons, it simply states there is no Constitutional “right” to own them.

We can thank “judicial review” for clarification.

Let’s remember this concept at the next mention of someone’s “Constitutional right” to own an AR-15. In the federalist system we allow individual states latitude to enact laws and enforce local norms, not falsely claim politically motivated interpretations of the Constitution.

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. – Tenth Amendment

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