- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft shocked gun-control advocates by taking the "extreme" position that the Second Amendment to the Constitution enshrines an individual rather than a corporate right to firearms ownership. In other words, actual people were what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Constitution not some collective entity such as state militias.
Mr. Ashcroft wrote a letter to the executive director of the National Rifle Association, James Jay Baker, in which he argued that "the text and the original intent of the Second Amendment clearly protect the right of individuals to keep and bear firearms. While some have argued that the Second Amendment guarantees only a 'collective right of the states to maintain militias, I believe the amendmentss plain meaning and original intent prove otherwise."
To anyone who has actually read the Second Amendment and has any grasp of the fundamental reason why American colonists rebelled against Great Britain in the first place, Mr. Ashcrofts interpretation is neither controversial nor surprising. America was founded on the idea of individual not "corporate" rights. In fact, only individuals can have rights, at least in any meaningful sense. "Society," the "people," etc. are all abstractions. They have no reality beyond the basic building blocks that comprise them that is, each individual. To take the opposite position, as demanded by gun-control advocates, is to turn one of the most fundamental founding principles on its head.
The gun-controllers, of course, do not base their arguments on the founding principles, but on the 60-year history of federal encroachment on gun control, including the 1968 Gun Control Act that was itself patterned on the very law used by Hitler and his Nazis to disarm the German people in the 1930s. "The practical effect of what hes done with this letter is to produce a 180 degree shift in policy on the Second Amendment," said Kirsten Rand, legislative director for the radical gun-control group, the Violence Policy Center.
All we can say in the immortal phraseology of Teddy Roosevelt is "bully." Mr. Ashcroft is the first attorney general in many years to agree with what the Constitution clearly states vs. some latter-day interpretation by activist federal judges or gun-control advocates. As Mr. Ashcroft put it, the Constitution "unequivocally" protects the individual right to possess firearms. The role of the federal government is to protect that right not undermine it. Contrast the opinion of Mr. Ashcroft with former Clinton administration Solicitor General Seth Waxman, who wrote that "the Supreme Court and eight United States courts of appeals have considered the scope of the Second Amendment and have uniformly rejected arguments that it extends firearms rights to individuals independent of the collective need to ensure a well-regulated militia."
There, in a nutshell, you have the fundamental philosophical difference between two views of the Constitution and the rights it enshrines. Luckily, the holders of the former view are in power.

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