Recent letters to the editor have described our right to bear arms as “divine” and “sacred.” It’s neither.

The Founders were determined to overthrow — by force of arms, as it turned out — the entire notion of divine rights. It was because of the supposed divine right of kings that the colonies had to put up with King George.

Rather than establishing a new monarchy, the Founders established a radically different form of government: self-government. Democracy. Let England allow God to appoint a government above and separate from the people. In the Founders’ new nation, the people would be the government.

The Founders also understood that for their new republic to endure, it needed flexibility in its laws. The United States would certainly change, but they didn’t know how.

So they included in the Constitution an Elastic Clause, allowing laws to change. This included amending the Constitution itself — which we’ve done right from the start with the first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights.

James Madison wrote that without the Elastic Clause, the Constitution would be a “dead letter.”

In other words, in the Constitution, nothing is sacred, starting with the Constitution itself.

The Constitution also tells us exactly who gets to decide what it means. It’s not me or anyone else who writes a letter to the editor. It’s the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller that, yes, private citizens have a right to bear arms, but that, no, that right is not limitless; it can be subject to substantial regulation.

How much? Let’s make that the starting point in the conversation about rules for gun possession.

Charlie Bernstein


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