In the wake of the Prop 8 decision, many people are talking about judicial tyranny and the will of the people. Since there appears to be a general lack of understanding about how our system of government actually works, consider the subject from a different direction: guns.

I hate the fact that private citizens in this country are legally entitled to own firearms.  As part of a frequently murdered minority group, gun ownership terrifies me.  I consider guns a serious threat to my personal safety and to the safety of my family.  I suppose I could tolerate gun ownership if people kept their guns at home behind closed doors, but I shouldn't have to be near them in public, and I certainly don't want schools teaching my children that having a gun is acceptable.

I would be perfectly happy if the right to private gun ownership was completely eliminated, but that won't happen.  No matter how repulsive I find the idea of gun ownership, no matter how many of my neighbors agree with me and no matter how many of us vote to ban them, any attempt to make gun ownership illegal will be overturned faster thanyou can pull a trigger.

That is the power of the United States Constitution.We the people have the right to make a dizzying array of decisions (wise or foolish) about our government, but the document that spells out that right – the very foundation of our nation – says that there are a few things we simply cannot do.  We cannot deny people the right to bear arms.  We cannot prohibit people from speaking their mind, no matter how hateful their words may be.  We cannot dictate people's religious beliefs, nor may we pass laws that deny rights to women, ethnic groups, veterans, the elderly or any minority group that happens to be unpopular at the moment.

There has been much hue and cry lately about alleged tyranny from the judicial bench, and gnashing of teeth over how one man can override the will of 7 million people.  But as anyone who took US Government in high school should know, federal judges have one job: enforcing the Constitution.  If there is a tyrant in our government, you won't find it in the federal judiciary, but rather in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

That tyrannical document ensures that 7 million Californians can't make gun ownership illegal in our state.  It viciously ensures that women get to vote, and don't become disenfranchised chattel if they marry men.  It even has the nerve to prohibit home sellers from discriminating against potential buyers based on their race (which is another little “will of the people” gem that a majority of Californians tried to make legal).

The Constitution provides all sorts of guarantees, and any given individual is likely to find at least one of them distasteful, if not downright repulsive.  For me, that happens to be gun ownership.  For others, it might be marriage equality for same-sex couples.  But no matter how much we may dislike those things, and no matter how vigorously we may seek to keep them outside of our homes and our families, we cannot prohibit them in the law.  Our tyrannical Constitution forbids it.

If you believe legal marriage equality violates your religious freedom, consider this: the Constitution that says people around me can own guns also ensures that you have a right to your religious beliefs.   Just like a gun, however, you can't point them at me and pull the trigger.  Your religious freedom applies only to your own life, and cannot be used to deprive me of the pursuit of happiness and freedom from government intrusion in mine.

Unlike another well-known piece of literature, the Constitution is an all-or-nothing deal.  Unless you can get it amended, you must either live by the entire document – including the parts you dislike – or find a new country to call home.

Tyranny, indeed.




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