Gun Control or Safety with Twenty-one Executive Orders

A few days ago President Obama signed twenty-one Executive Orders. What do twenty-one Executive Orders about ”making it safer for children” mean to me when it seems to me that they are about gun control? Are they an assault or an infringement on my rights under the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms?  Is any one of the Orders making law or even bordering on that? If any of us older folks  owns guns, how would s(he) feel about a national registration? Would an heir have to register an inherited weapon?  Is it a slippery slope to removing guns, or even an erosion of the Second Amendment, erosion I have seen so often with the First Amendment? Twenty-one Executive Orders at one time are a monumental attempt to do or say something. What was the President trying to say or do???

I grew up in small Iowa towns seeing guns used to hunt, not for sport but for food. I watched my father clean his guns, and I went hunting with him. I can’t tell you where he kept them; I can tell you we were taught to use them and to respect them. We were taught not to point a gun at something or someone unless we intended to use it. Guns were kept for protection of family and possessions. When I heard a commotion in the barn, the chicken coop, or the family dogs were barking crazily in the middle of the night, I knew there was an intruder on two or four legs. I knew that my father would grab his gun and make things safe again for me, my family, my pet animals, and particularly my pony, Nippy.

As the President put pen to paper to sign these 21 Orders, my personal feeling was that I was watching a King or a Monarch give orders to his subjects, not my President serving the nation he is sworn to serve. It seemed more like an act in defiance of the Congress and the Constitution he swears to uphold. The question remains. “Why would my President do this?” After reading the 21 Orders, the question was more intense in my mind. Most of the Orders seemed quite mild and largely administrative. Why would he not pick up the phone or write a note to a department or staff person to implement fully existing law or policy? Why would he ask the Center for Disease Control, CDC, to study the issue of violence in our culture? Why not deal directly with Hollywood film makers who produce such violent films, game makers and producers of violent video games, and the producers of violent television shows? Why not use the many studies about violence that have been done over many years? Why the formality of Executive Orders?

Four of the Orders, including national registration of guns, a ban on assault weapons, and the restrictions imposed on ammunition, I believe, are a different matter. These would require legislation. The Constitution has a great sense of clarity about the separation of powers and the importance of that concept. The Founders wanted to make certain that total power over the people could never rest in one body or one person. That’s why we have a branch that creates laws, the Congress, a branch that enforces the laws, the executive branch, the President, and the Judicial Branch that adjudicates and interprets law when necessary.

Our Founders who wrote the Constitution gave us a document that guaranteed the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of the three branches in order to make certain that the power was divided and would always rest with the people. The Constitution does not start out with We the People  by chance. The document is designed as the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

But for me, the burning question remains. Why the need for 21 Executive Orders? Since I had never seen such a bunch of Executive Orders signed by a president at one time in my 91 years, I wondered about the purpose of Executive Orders. As I understand the use, it is to help the president direct the executive branch using Executive Orders that deal with existing federal law or with powers expressly given to the President in the Constitution. Executive Orders are essentially governing by decree. The President has no authority to make law; that is the work of our elected legislators and is vested solely in the Congress. Again, this power is explicitly given to those directly elected by the people. Even Executive Orders may be overturned by federal legislation.

If the President did not intend to govern by decree, why did he choose to give that perception? At least the formality and auspicious nature of the signng appeared that way to me. Granted, the 21 Orders are about an emotionally and politically charged issue, gun control, an issue raw from recent violent events. But surely the President, a scholar of Constitutional Law, is quite aware of the limits of executive power. He knows laws are made by Congress, unless he thinks that he has the power to bypass Congress with his decrees.

Twenty-one Executive Orders sound very king-like to me; whether or not they are Constitutional is another matter. The Founders wrote the document that guaranteed the separation of powers; it is up to us to keep what they gave us. A republic isn’t guaranteed permanent existence just because it is called a republic. The people who cherish its freedoms must fight to keep them for their children.

We can be taught about the Constitution, but we must know it in our hearts and souls for us to know the depth of its importance. We must feel the pulse of the words and listen to them talking to us across the years. “To keep your freedoms you must understand what it would be like without them.” Go again and read the Second Amendment and understand that the Founders wanted us to be safe from threats from within as well as from without our republic.

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Lady Liberty and the Inauguration

There she is! Perched above the Capitol dome looking down on the throngs on the Capitol Mall–the dignitaries behind the President, the Congress, families, the Vice President, and the President of the United States. She has been standing there for many inaugurations and has listened to many presidents. She has looked down the Mall at the monuments of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. Today she and I and all those present and listening and watching heard President Obama give his inaugural address.

After I listened and watched today, I went for a walk to the end of my driveway as I do almost every day. It’s a nice long walk through the palms. It is my grateful walk. I sit at the end for a few minutes and reflect about the things for which I am grateful. Today the inauguration was on the list. What an incredible ceremony. What a brilliant way for the transfer of power and  the protection of the continuity of our government. And to think it happens every four years. Granted, we do elect Presidents for two terms and one might say that the second term is not a transfer of power. But just think. Barack Obama had to be elected before he could serve another four years. And he can’t be elected again. What brilliance we have in our Constitution. Our Founders risked all to escape tyranny and the rule of tyrants and kings. They gave us this incredible document that created our republic and this peaceful transfer of power.

As I sat at the end of the driveway this morning I reflected on the words of the poet from the morning. We the people, a phrase mentioned often in the ceremony this morning, really do all live under the same sky. This morning in California over my palms there was not a cloud to be seen.  Wherever we live in theUnited States of America this morning, our sky may be as diverse as the people it covers. I heard soaring rhetoric this morning from my President about coming together to move forward as one people for the good of all Americans. He made clear that the train he is running is leaving the station and he knows exactly where it’s going. No need to make other travel plans. With unity of purpose, he says, we all need to get on his train. He has already named various conductors on the route who will help us to his destination.

I want to get on that train that takes us to an always better future. That’s what I want to leave for my grandchildren and for yours. But I think the train may be going in directions that will lead to some stations where I do not want to stop; I certainly don’t want some destinations closed to future generations. I want every station on the line that guarantees a freedom for me and all Americans to remain open.

I felt the President was preparing us for a route for my freedom train that would have only the stations that he wanted and those that fit his philosophy. For instance, I want the station of initiative, individual responsibility, and effort to remain open. I want my President to tell me he will work to help people get jobs so they can get off of unemployment and food stamps. I want all the stations of freedom guaranteed in the Constitution to remain open. I want the stations that have been allowed to get dusty and become obscure with the attacks on our freedoms to open again; the Constitution covers us all just like the sky.

As I sat at the end of the driveway this morning, I scanned in my mind the faces of all the members of Congress sitting behind the President. If I counted myself among the Liberals and Progressives, I would be elated. But if I considered myself to be a conservative fiscally or socially, I would feel like I had been challenged to a duel rather than a luncheon of unity.

Creating a Miracle–The United States Constitution

It is May 25, 1787.

As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, you are entering the east room of the Pennsylvania State House. It is a hot and steamy day in Philadelphia. The Farmer’s Almanac says it’s going to be that way all summer.

Yes, if you signed the Declaration of Independence you’re back in the same room where you were eleven years ago.

The War is over. Now your job as a delegate is to move forward to create the kind of government you fought for.

We all must put ourselves in the hot, steamy, room with our Founders as they were doing the agonizing job of creating this great document. Would we realize that we were attempting to do something that had never been done before in human history? Could we be certain that our compromises would net us a document that guaranteed us self-government, freedom—all the freedoms that we cherish and fought for, all the freedoms rightfully ours from our Creator?

The first action of the delegates was to elect a President. George Washington was easily elected to the job. His popularity and respect had grown to such heights during the Revolutionary War, that many historians feel he could have become King. Thankfully,Washington just wanted to return toVirginia and resume a quiet life on his plantation.

At the time of the convention, no one outside of the convention knew what was happening. As they made the decisions about the rules, one of the first and most important decisions was secrecy. The delegates not only wanted to be free to speak their minds, but they did not want to cause alarm or opposition among the public. The members agreed to keep the proceedings secret until they finished their work. The members took the role of secrecy seriously; not one word about the convention was published in a newspaper during the proceedings.

There were fifty-five delegates from 12 states; Rhode  Island boycotted the meeting. The Constitutional Convention was lacking some notables, men who were active in the Revolution. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were representing the new nation in Great Britain and France. Others missing who feared that a strong national government would weaken the rights of states were John Adams, John Hancock, and Patrick Henry,

These were mot ordinary men. They were sometimes called the “well read, the well fed, the well bred, and the well wed.” They were also quite young with an average age of 42. Benjamin Franklin, at age 81, was the oldest of the delegates. Most of the men had considerable political knowledge and experience. Many were lawyers.

When they met in 1787, they were not there to draft a New Constitution. They were there to modify the Articles of Confederation written in 1777 and ratified in 1781, the government that had been operating since the Revolutionary War.  This goal was quickly discarded as the discussions centered around two competing concepts of government

The Virginia Plan called for a strong national government with three branches—legislative to make laws; executive to execute the laws; and judicial to apply and interpret the laws. In the Virginia Plan, the population of the state would determine the number of delegates The larger states liked this idea.

The New Jersey Plan also called for three branches of government. The legislative branch, however, would have just one house with each state having equal delegates. The small states liked the idea because it gave them equal power.

Heated arguments continued for some time into July. Delegates were passionate about their arguments; they continually asked about the reason for forming the government. Is it for the states or is it for the people? It is important to remember that the delegates all came with considerable work in their own states on governing documents and policies. They were philosophically grounded and had experience in creating documents and policies that assured the freedom of the people. They came to this country to secure religious freedom. They wanted to make certain that the government they created would guarantee the rights of the people for them and future generations. 

Finally a compromise was reached. Roger Sherman of Connecticut    proposed to keep two houses in the legislative branch. One would be the House of Representatives which would represent the people; the other, the Senate, would represent the states. Each state would have two legislators who would be elected by their state legislation. This has become know as the Connecticut or Great Compromise. This plan saved the convention.

This kept the members talking and working together. But the next great hurdle they faced was how the slaves would be counted in the representation. At this time, most of the slaves lived in the South. The unsavory debate about whether slaves were property or people occurred. Fortunately, the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence forced the white population to examine their thinking about slaves. The division in the country was noticeable. In order to keep the convention moving forward, Madison proposed a three-fifths compromise. Each slave would be counted as three-fifths of a person.

The next major hurdle was how the chief executive should be elected. In spite of the delegates fear of “one executive,” they finally agreed to have one executive called the President. To limit the power of this person, they limited the term of service to four years. The manner of choosing this executive was equally vexing. Some wanted the Congress to appoint; others wanted the President elected by the people; others argued that the President should be elected by a carefully chosen group of people called the “electors.” The Electoral College was established. Each state has as many electors as members it sends to Congress. Changes have occurred in this system over the years.

The summer ended and the Constitution was finished, but the work was not yet over. The Constitution had to be ratified. The question of how many states were needed and what the process would be had to be settled. How many states were needed and who within the states would approve were the issues. Legislature ratification would be faster, but others argued that it needed to be voted on by the people. Finally it was decided that the Constitution would be ratified at special conventions by delegates chosen by the people in each state.   Nine as the number of states needed to ratify was accepted

The Constitution was declared complete on September 17, 1787. A governing document was created like none that existed before nor has there been one like it since. These brave men had indeed created something very special, an enduring guarantee of freedom as long as we preserve  the freedoms it guarantees. It is under attack in several areas; each one of us is a guardian. It was made for the benefit of the people; it must be preserved by those it serves. We did not become a great nation by accident. Next, we will explore the pieces of this great document that helped us become, “The Shining City on the Hill.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving the Constitution–The Battle at Hand

When a professor at a major university suggests that we should do away with the Constitution, appropriate words to respond do not come to mind. Rather I am consumed with floods of memories, and with thoughts from my study and research for my last book,  America First, Again. How could anyone who knows anything about the founding of our great country possibly suggest that we throw away the guiding document of our founders, a document that implemented and guaranteed freedoms that never existed together in one document before nor since that document.

It is just one more voice suggesting that our governing documents are out of touch with the present; they are outdated. The culture of today, they say, requires a more modern approach, a new set of governing policies that fit our modern outlook. I am reminded of a report about a store selling the Constitution to school children carrying a reminder to parents that they needed to understand that this old document was out of date. Essentially, proceed with caution.

It is an assault that I see going on all around our nation. I happen to think that it is no accident. It is a planned program to transform our nation. To do so, the Constitution must be made impotent and our Christian heritage must be forgotten, denigrated, or at least portrayed as illegal. The use of the pesky establishment clause has been a treasure trove for those who wish to remove all vestiges of our Christian heritage from schools, public places, and even public meetings. These same people, plus many others, are systematically removing any patriotic phrase or song from public meetings, even the Star Spangled Banner from sports events.

America First  was published in 1916 by the American Book Company. It was written by Jasper L. McBrien, who at the time of the writing was School Extension Specialist for the United States Bureau of Education, and a former Superintendent of Public Instruction of Nebraska.

McBrien writes in the Foreward:

…the rising generation, both native-born and foreign, to get the full meaning of               this slogan (America First) in its far-reaching significance, must have time for           study and reflection along patriotic lines. There must be the right material on             which the American youth may settle their thoughts for a definite end in patriotism if our country is to have a new birth of freedom and if ‘this government of the people, by the people, and for the people is not to perish from the earth.’ The prime and vital service of amalgamating into one homogenous body the children alike of those ho are born here and of those who come here from so many different lands must be rendered this Republic by the school teachers of America. 

McBrien continues:

The purpose of this book is to furnish the teachers and pupils of our country,             material with which the idea of true Americanism may be developed until ‘            America First’ shall become the slogan of every man, woman, and child in the             United States.

I was born just six years after this was written. From the time that I was 4, I have been in school in one way or another. I have lived for nearly ninety decades in or around school, going to school, teaching at all levels, working as a counselor or administrator at all levels, teaching and working with teachers and administrators, and now as a school board member in my fifth four-year term. I still see many dedicated people who believe and model the principles and values that have made our country great. But there are many I have encountered on my journey who have forgotten or have never known what the Constitution means to this republic. How can our teachers teach our children what they don’t know? How can our teachers and parents who come out of our colleges where professors blatantly mock the Constitution, savage our Founders and heroes, and rewrite our history, know the true nature of the republic in which they live?

Whatever corner of this great land each of us occupies, each must insist that our young are taught the history as it was written in the blood of our founders. We must herald the greatness of America to be First Again. It is not to make us better than others; it is to give us the strength and resources to serve others as we have done throughout our history. We must teach our young to love their country and prize the freedoms that it assures them. We must teach them to weave the tapestry of their life with the silver and gold threads of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

That tapestry allows them to be all that they were created to be.

This is the first in a series of blogs that I want to leave for my grandchildren. I hope they will mean something to yours. I want to be certain that I have given them the truth about our Constitution and our founders as I find it in original documents and the best sources I can find. I hope you will help me in this important task.  I prize any  advice.