- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Editorial contains Bill of Rights boo-boo

While I agree completely with your argument that the Second Amendment guarantees the individual the right to keep and bear arms, your assertion that the Constitution would not have been ratified absent a Bill of Rights is incorrect ("The individual right to bear arms," Editorials, May 10).

The Constitution was approved at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and ratified by the required number of states in 1788 (New Hampshire put it over the top). The Bill of Rights was added in 1791, a full three years after ratification. The Bill of Rights was added later to placate the concerns of antifederalists, led by George Mason and Patrick Henry, who argued that the Constitution did not specify the natural rights of citizens.

At the convention, the antifederalists argued against ratification, but the arguments of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison won the day. They knew that it was possible to go back and correct anything they felt was left out of the original document, including the rights fought for by the antifederalists.

While the Founders clearly believed in the individual right to keep and bear arms, it was not spelled out in federal law until after the Constitution had been in operation for three years.


CHRIS BUEHNER

Canton, Mich.

Bush avoids ICC nightmare

As you point out, President Bush was wise to reject the treaty creating the International Criminal Court (ICC) ("Unsigning the ICC," Editorial, May 7). As House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, said, the United States "simply cannot accept an international institution that claims jurisdiction over American citizens superior to that of our Constitution."

The ICC claims to have universal jurisdiction even over citizens of states that do not ratify the treaty. U.S. government officials, military officers and soldiers, even corporate executives, could all be investigated and charged under the court's broad jurisdictional provisions.

The court's terrain is broader than the expected war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It includes the vague, undefined crime of "aggression."

Conceivably, the ICC could try U.S. soldiers engaged in the war against terror or even President Bush.

The ICC treaty lacks constitutional safeguards such as the right to confront one's accusers, due process and a public and speedy trial by an impartial jury. Americans brought before the court will be denied protection against double jeopardy, as the ICC retains the right to review U.S. court decisions and retry individuals if, according to the U.N. treaty, the ICC determines decisions "were not conducted independently or impartially," or were for the purpose of "shielding the person concerned from criminal responsibility." Even decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court would be subject to ICC review.

Those who think that the ICC would limit itself to the really bad thugs of the world the Pol Pots and the Idi Amins have their heads in the sand. The expansive jurisdiction claimed by the ICC would put every U.S. serviceman and woman in danger. It would even endanger U.S. travelers, especially those who are or have been public officials, putting them at risk of being grabbed for trial by judges from Sierra Leone, Sudan, Iran and other nations hostile to the rule of law.


DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

Immigration law tears apart families

By ignoring the devastating impact of the 1996 immigration laws, Commentary contributor James R. Edwards Jr. fails to understand the issue of family reunification ("Coddling criminal immigrants?" May 1).

The bipartisan bill H.R. 1452, written by Reps. Barney Frank and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, would simply give legal, permanent residents who have been convicted of a crime a hearing before an immigration judge who would weigh the conviction against the person's contributions to society. The judge would decide whether this person is in fact a threat to society or an asset to the community. The bill is far from a "get out of jail free" card.

There are many legal, permanent residents who are law-abiding, hard-working taxpayers and have never depended on the government for any kind of financial aid. Because of a minor mistake, however, some residents have been deported from the only country they have ever known. Many legal residents' convictions are neither "aggravated" nor "felonies" under the criminal justice system. Rather, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has labeled them "aggravated felons" for administrative purposes.

If the criminal justice system has already punished these people for their crimes, why does the INS feel the need to re-punish them years later by tearing apart their families and exiling them to countries that are foreign to them?

We need a Family Reunification Act.


VIRAL SHAH

Jersey City, N.J.

License legislation sacrifices freedom for security

I don't know whether to laugh or cry after reading the May 10 letter to the editor from Reps. Jim Moran and Tom Davis "New driver's license legislation nothing to fear."

They seem unaware that the very essence of freedom is the protection of individual privacy from government intrusion. As our machines become ever more capable of unlimited surveillance, we should keep in mind the bloody lesson of history: What seems prudent and harmless under one government can easily be turned into a nightmare under another. For the government to ask for your papers, it must first must issue them to you.

Does anyone really believe that forcing Americans to carry computer chips in their pockets is going to prevent another terrorist attack? The money would be more wisely spent protecting our porous borders from terrorist infiltrators and malcontents intent on disrupting our way of life.

In the end, if our freedom is to be sacrificed, let it be to an enemy who has bested us in battle, not because we allowed our government to grow too powerful in the name of national security.


MICHAEL FARLING

Seminole, Fla.


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