The U.S. Constitution is the fundamental reason that America and her people have prospered so much for more than two centuries. Its construction was ingenious, and the principles contained within it have been enduring, as important today as they were when they were written.

When members of Congress are sworn into office, they take an oath to “support and defend” the Constitution. That is with good reason, as fidelity to our founding document is a lawmaker’s chief responsibility. Respecting the Constitution also happens to be the best method for promoting the freedom and prosperity of the people who live under its laws.

Unfortunately, it seems that, as time goes by, the country as a whole and our political leaders in particular care a great deal less about our Constitution. It is casually disregarded and dismissed as a relic of the past, unable to deal with modern society or the changes America has seen since it was written.

Now, political agendas are the chief concern of members of Congress. It is to those political ideologies that they owe their allegiance, not the Constitution. Laws are written, passed and signed by the president that run afoul of it. Courts are now political battlegrounds, with warped interpretations of a supposedly “living Constitution” changing what the document means to fit with a certain political agenda.

The irony, of course, is that the Constitution was written specifically to limit the power of the federal government, to ensure that certain rights are protected. These rights are inconvenient to those in power who view these protections as an impediment to constructing a society how they want to. We should all care that Washington has continually abused its authority in this way.

The most commonly assailed protection recently has been the right to keep and bear arms. The language of the Second Amendment couldn’t be any more clear on the subject: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Yet some lawmakers across the country pretend that the Second Amendment doesn’t exist or is open to interpretation. Motivated by an urge to curtail gun ownership and regulate who can own what, where, when and how, too many of those in power today fail to obey the Second Amendment, or understand why it even exists in the first place.

It is vital that Maine’s next representative from the 2nd District have a deep understanding of gun ownership, and its importance to society. I do.

I am, and always have been, a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights. The right to keep and bear arms was established to protect the people from a tyrannical government bent on disarming and subjugating the people. It was established to recognize the natural right of the people to protect themselves. Removing these protections do nothing but harm law-abiding citizens and empower criminals who have no respect for the law.

I do not and will not support, and never have supported, the radical agenda of gun-control groups. I do not support a federal directory of gun owners, nor do I support expanded background checks. That is why I’ve been honored to have the support of National Rifle Association instructors, Second Amendment leaders, gun shop owners and sportsmen and sportswomen throughout Maine.

Gun violence is a serious problem in the United States, but robbing Americans of their God-given rights won’t solve that problem. Indeed, Maine is an educational example to the rest of the country, as we have one of the highest rates of firearms possession, and at the same time we rank near the bottom in gun violence.

That is further proof of what should be common sense. Gun crime is caused by underlying social challenges faced by our citizens, not gun ownership. The deepest desires of the gun control lobby will not solve poverty, drugs or gang violence, which drive so many of the problems we face. All they will do is disarm and restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens who wish to protect themselves.

That is something I will never support. If privileged to serve as Maine’s next 2nd District congressman, I will diligently support and defend our Constitution — the cornerstone of our hard-earned civil society, freedoms and American way of life.

Bruce Poliquin, of Oakland, is a Republican candidate for Maine’s 2nd District in Congress. He was state treasurer from 2011-13.