Monday, January 20, 2020


     The title word is about to become the most important word – nay, the most important concept — in the political lexicon of these United States.

     Here’s the dictionary definition:

     Insurrection n: an act or instance of rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against civil authority or an established government.

     Here are the instances in which the Constitution of the United States mentions insurrection:

     The Congress shall have Power... To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; [Article I, section 8, clause 15]

     No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability. [Fourteenth Amendment, third paragraph]

     The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void. [Fourteenth Amendment, fourth paragraph]

     Article I, Section 8, which enumerates the legitimate legislative powers of Congress, concerns insurrections against the United States. That is an appropriate power of Congress, which is of course the federal legislative body. The Fourteenth Amendment, one of the Amendments ratified in the wake of the Civil War, is less easily interpreted or validated. It was intended to put an end to the squabbles about the political order once the War was over and the Union restored. However, as an Amendment to the federal Constitution, it surely applies to insurrections against the United States above all else.

     It is indisputable that to rise in insurrection against the United States itself – i.e., the federal government – is a no-no in Constitutional terms. That was the basis for the Civil War: the assault on Fort Sumter by Confederate forces was the igniting act. Of course, had the Confederates prevailed in that war, we wouldn’t be discussing this today, as the old maxim that “the victors write the history books” would remind us. So the question of the hour becomes:

What would constitute an insurrection against the United States by a state government?

     That question will be asked today in a visible and audible form: in Richmond, the state capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

     It has been said that what the Constitution says in its text no longer matters, in comparison to what the Supreme Court has said in hundreds of volumes of commentary. That often seems to be the case. Witness John Roberts’s scrofulous majority opinion defending ObamaCare, in which he asserted that it constitutes a tax legitimate under Article I, Section 8, even as the lawyers defending it protested that it is nothing of the sort. Witness also – and more relevant to today’s controversy — the late Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in D.C. v Heller, in which he asserted a wholly fictitious power among states and localities to limit the right to keep and bear arms:

     Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.... For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues.... Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

     We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”...

     It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.

     That passage is an escape hatch through which states and municipalities have eviscerated the most important aspect of the Second Amendment’s guarantee – indeed, the very reason for which the colonists rebelled against the English Crown: the ability to resist the predations of a tyrannical government.

     A tyrannical government is one that attempts to invade the rights of its citizens / subjects. As the Constitution recognizes the conception of individual rights, and as there cannot be such a thing as a right which one is not permitted to defend, the notion that a civilian cannot possess a weapon simply because it is “dangerous and unusual” – dangerous to whom, we might ask? – is completely contradictory not only to the text of the Second Amendment but to the entire philosophy of the Revolution and the Founding:

     That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. [Declaration of Independence]

     Regardless of any representations to the contrary, a government never has but one reason for disarming its subjects.

     By my interpretation of the right to keep and bear arms – a pre-existing right, as Justice Scalia noted in his decision – the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia is in a state of insurrection against these United States. Therefore Congress has the power to act against would the citizens of Virginia, acting in defense of their rights. For every right carries within it a right to defend it by force.

     Ralph “Kill the babies and give me your guns” Northam is hoping for a provocative act at today’s rally in defense of Virginians’ rights: a “Reichstag fire” he could use to “justify” the forcible suppression of opposition to his regime. I can only pray that he doesn’t get one, but the preannounced presence of AntiFa, and the possibility that provocateurs will be inserted to provoke such an act, fill me with terror. I have friends down there, and several of them will be among the rallygoers.

     Watch Richmond today – and whatever comes of the rally, watch for a federal response. It would be best if no blood were shed, and if the matter were resolved in the courts, but that, too, is a matter for prayer.


Paul Bonneau said...

I have to laugh at all the arm-waving in these legal opinions. The more "explanation" of the 2nd Amendment there is, the more infringement results. We don't need it explained to us; we already know what it means!

"It is to be interpreted, as all solemn instruments are, by endeavoring to ascertain the true sense and meaning of all the terms; and we are neither to narrow them, nor to enlarge them, by straining them from their just and natural import, for the purpose of adding to, or diminishing its powers, or bending them to any favorite theory or dogma of party. It is the language of the people, to be judged of according to common sense, and not by mere theoretical reasoning. It is not an instrument for the mere private interpretation of any particular men."
-- Joseph Storey, Supreme Court Justice from 1811-1845, on the subject of the Constitution

Margaret Ball said...

It appears that the event passed without violence. I honestly didn't think that would happen; I thought for sure there would be provocateurs and that in such a large gathering there'd be at least one person who would respond to provocation. There are times when I come close to believing in the power of prayer, and this is one of them.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Quite a lot of people have been praying that the rally would go off peacefully, Margaret. Some were undoubtedly at the rally themselves.