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Jewish World Review July 24, 2001 / 4 Menachem-Av 5761

Don Feder

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United Nations Meets the Second Amendment -- THE U.N. Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, which ended on Friday, was one of those perennial attempts by international bureaucrats to legislate for humanity.

Despite its innocuous title, the conference agitated for gun confiscation. Its 18-page Draft Program of Action called for mechanisms (such as registration at the national level) to eliminate the "wide availability of guns."

"Reconciliation between communities is almost impossible when both are armed to the teeth," intoned Jayantha Dhanapala, U.N. undersecretary for general disarmament affairs.

But the problem isn't gun ownership by the vast majority of the world's peaceable inhabitants, or even, primarily, weapons in the hands of insurgents.

Most of humanity's suffering issues from the muzzles of state authority, in places like China, Cuba, Iraq and the Sudan, all of whom rallied at the conference for a crackdown on guns in the hands of "communities."

Bolton, who led America's delegation, cautioned, "Just as the First and Fourth Amendments secure individual rights of speech and security respectively, the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms." And so, "The United States will not join a consensus on a final document that contains measures abrogating the constitutional right to bear arms."

Bolton echoes Ashcroft. In May, the attorney general said, "While some have argued that the Second Amendment guarantees only a 'collective right' of the states to maintain militias, I believe the amendment's plain meaning and original intent prove otherwise."

His predecessor, Janet Reno, thought the Second Amendment had all the relevance of the Articles of Confederation. Then again, Waco and the Elian Gonzalez affair would suggest her understanding of the Fourth Amendment was equally flawed.

Bolton's comments were too much for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who charged his position was "in direct contradiction to decades of Supreme Court precedent," including U.S. vs. Miller (1939).

Apparently, Feinstein has never actually read Miller, which focused on the amendment's preamble. ("A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.")

The court ruled Miller's sawed-off shotgun did not promote a well-regulated militia. Why didn't it simply say that since Miller wasn't a member of a National Guard unit, the amendment didn't apply to him? Because it correctly interpreted "militia" as every able-bodied, adult male.

Miller aside, the best scholarship now supports an individual-rights interpretation of the Second. In his 1999 book, "Origins of the Bill of Rights," Leonard W. Levy (a liberal constitutional historian) wrote, "The amendment does protect individuals." Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, grand mufti of left legal scholars, shares that view.

Levy explained that the right derives from English common law. He cites no less an authority than Sir William Blackstone's "Commentaries on the Laws of England" (widely read by the Founding Fathers) that an Englishman's right "to have" arms was essential "to protect and maintain inviolate the three great and primary rights of personal security, personal liberty and private property."

In "The Federalist," James Madison mentioned "the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation." The Second Amendment's author said elsewhere rulers fear an armed populace. Regimes well-represented at the U.N., including those that perpetrated the Tiananmen Square massacre and the brutal occupation of Kuwait, prove Madison's point.

And so, it transpires, the Second Amendment was written to protect Americans from the type of despotic government which dominates U.N.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate