- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

Immigration, language and memory

The findings from seemingly endless American opinion polls are often discouraging, but at last there is an encouraging word from a new Zogby International survey (“Immigrants favor English as official language,” Nation, Tuesday).

The survey found that 65 percent of Hispanic adults living in America favor making English the official language and that Hispanics with less than a high-school education favor it by 73 percent. How different these findings are from the views of activists seeking to require bilingual education in public schools.

Again, this demonstrates the wisdom of the ordinary man and the foolishness of the worldly wise.

A common language lies at the root of national identity. It is the doorway to understanding the nation’s history and culture. This is especially true in a democracy like America where citizen participation is the key to making the Declaration of Independence a living document.

Language is the key to understanding what Lincoln called “the mystic chords of memory” in his first inaugural, on the eve of the Civil War. That memory, he added, stretches “from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as they surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Immigrants, especially those who have fled poverty or repression in their native land, understand better than many native Americans that a common language is the vehicle that nourishes “the mystic chords” of America’s memory.

ERNEST W. LEFEVER

Founding president

Ethics and Public Policy Center

Chevy Chase

Bolton’s departure

It is ironic that John Bolton is leaving his post as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the same time that Kofi Annan retires as Secretary General of the United Nations (“Bolton quits fight for U.N. nomination,” Page 1, Tuesday).

Unfortunately, because of the partisan animosity of Democrat Sens. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut — and turncoat Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island who denied Mr. Bolton an up or down vote on the Senate floor — there is joy in the capitals of Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea with his departure.

The United States has lost an experienced negotiator at a most critical time. Despite critics warning that he would do otherwise, Mr. Bolton served with exemplary tact, and stood pat for American interests, in spite of the office of the secretary general’s sniping and leaks.

WILLIAM H. SMITH

Palm Desert, Calif.

Questioning D.C.’s gun laws

I about fell out of my chair when I read that ridiculous article in the Metropolitan section concerning the second amendment (“Right to bear arms applies to militias only, city tells court,” Metropolitan, Friday).

The District of Columbia maintains that the right to keep and bear arms belongs to the militias, not the individual people. Yes of course the Second Amendment applies to militias. But by definition a militia is a group of citizens, not the regular military. In other words the right does belong to “we the people.”

Simply put, the desire of the Founding Fathers was to enable the citizens to retain the power of the firearm. The intentions of the founders are clearly delineated in the Federalist Papers. If what the city says is true, then it is implying that of all the rights for we the people, the Second Amendment was written for the government. This flies in the face of our Constitution, because the intent of the Constitution is to limit the power of the government, and at the same time, to empower the people. Clearly this is the people’s document.

FRED C. SEBLY

Mount Airy, Md.

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In the article “Right to bear arms applies to militia only, city tells court,” the District’s solicitor general, Todd Kim, is quoted as arguing before a federal court of appeals that the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution only gives the members of a militia a right to keep and bear arms, and therefore gives the District the right to ban all regular citizens from owning firearms. However, Mr. Kim’s view of the Second Amendment and the power the city has over the regulation of arms can not be right.

The Second Amendment states “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.” The first half of this amendment (sometimes referred to as the “Militia Clause”) does nothing to restrict to whom this amendment is applicable. All it does is simply state that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state. The amendment does not go on to say, “The right of the members of a well regulated Militia to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”; it says, “The right of the people.”

However, even if the Second Amendment was intended to only apply to the members of the militia, it should now apply to all people. At the time of the writing of the Constitution the militia was all free men who were able to fight. It can now be argued that restricting the right to bear arms only to able-bodied men is discriminatory toward both women and the handicapped, and because of the equal protection of the law granted in the 14th Amendment, the Second Amendment should now apply to all people in all states regardless of race, sex or ability.

Either way you look at it, the argument being used by Mr. Kim and other city attorneys does not hold any water. The District’s longstanding gun ban is unconstitutional, and it has only served to disarm the weak and innocent victims of violent criminals. I sincerely hope that the court rules in favor of liberty, so that the good citizens of the District of Columbia may finally be able to fight back against the thugs who have for so long taken advantage of the city’s disregard for the human rights and civil liberties that are expressly protected in the United States Constitution.

STEPHEN J. PETER

Burke

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The District’s firearms ban has long raised questions in my mind.

The Constitution does not define a well-regulated militia, nor does it give to anyone the right to establish and regulate a militia. It does not state the circumstances in which the establishment of a militia would be legal. Can citizens of a high-crime area, having not received protection from their government, establish and regulate a militia?

History tells us that militias were established locally for the very reason that the central government could not protect the people. These militias were regulated by the central government. For the most part this was only a paper exercise; the militias were regulated, and often not well-regulated, locally. The militias were eventually absorbed into the National Guard, but this did not eliminate their Second Amendment authorization.

The plaintiffs would save some money by firing Alan Gura, who asked, “If we decide that it’s no longer necessary, can we erase any part of the Constitution?” We can, we have, and the Constitution tells us in Article V how to do it.

If I owned a firearm, which I can legally do in Virginia and most other states, and moved into the District, under what circumstances could the District seize my firearm without violating my Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable seizures? What reasons does the District give to establish that it is unreasonable to own a firearm in the District? Do any of those reasons outweigh any citizen’s Fourth Amendment right to protection of abode and property? Do any of those reasons justify the District’spersistence in spending the citizen’s money to defend a law that is impossible to enforce? How long will the citizens of the District support a government that so egregiously wastes their hard-earned taxes?

Unfortunately, we already have the answer to the last question.

DARREL SALISBURY

Lorton

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