Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

June 12, 2013

Constitution was built on compromise

The Andover Townsman

---- — Editor, Townsman:

Regarding Steve Leet’s letter in the May 30 edition (”Constitution must be enforced”), I feel it is important to point out how the Constitution was created and for what purpose.

The first goal was to replace the Articles of the Confederacy, which was a horribly weak document that disallowed for a strong central government. Since we had just won a war against a strong central authority, there was naturally a concern of replacing one with another. But 13 States with competing agendas cried out for order and control, and that is what the Constitution set out to do.

In order to get the majority of states to agree to ratify the new proposal, accommodations had to be made. There needed to be an assurance that the central government would not be too strong, so three branches of authority were created and no one branch could rule above the others. States’ rights were an important component, and so despite, for example, the Declaration of Independence “… hold these truths to be self-evident, all men are created equal …,” the institution of slavery was left undisturbed. Had it not been, the southern states would not have ratified.

As for the Second, in 1787, we did not have a national army to speak of and the states were suspicious of who would control. 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. Through this, it was understood that states could each have their own militia that would obey only the state authority and further, individuals would keep their own weapons, mainly because in 1790, the household gun was as necessary as the cellphone is today. Also, it was the cheapest way to go. In times of trouble, the call would go out and everyone would show up with their musket. This is how a militia was mustered. Even within the states, they were not standing armies.

And now we are in the 21st century. We have a standing Army, a National Guard and Coast Guard and a system of public safety. We are not under attack from the Native Americans; we are not worried that Spain, France or England will try to settle in our continent. Individual gun ownership remains a right and has been reaffirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, but reasonable restrictions are not inconsistent with the Second. The framers’ “original intent” is best described as “let’s compromise.” If the founders thought their document would be expected to be blindly adhered to and followed “without question,” then they would, without question, be astonished. They were not in any way as one. There were two primary factions and numerous splinters within both. The only way they were able to muscle this through the convention, the Congress and then ratification was by being purposefully ambiguous in the document’s meaning and intent. That way, they could sell it one way in North Carolina and another way in Rhode Island.

The brilliance of the Constitution is that it can expand and contract. The strength of our nation is built on compromise. The Second should be maintained, but unrestricted and unregulated availability, sale and ownership of any weapon needs to be addressed for the betterment of society today. We should welcome that conversation and the Constitution demands that we continue to have it.


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