Federalist Paper #46 revisited

Editor:

The first 56 of the 85 Federalist Papers are concerned with the need for a strong central government. In Paper 56, John Madison points out the dangers when the several states are allowed to dominate the national government: "... (A) great proportion of the errors committed by the state legislatures proceeds from the disposition of the members to sacrifice the comprehensive and permanent interest of the state to the particular and separate views of the counties or districts in which they reside."

Similarly, "Measures will too often be decided, ... not on the national prosperity and happiness, but on the prejudices, interests, and pursuits of the governments and people of the individual states."

Madison faults the members of the Continental Congress for acting more like "partisans of their respective states than as impartial guardians of a common interest ...."

Madison locates the citizens' right to keep and bear arms within the structure of state militias, presaging the opinions of prominent legal minds. The 1930s Supreme Court outlawed the use of machine guns by civilians, based on their opinion that the Second Amendment was not an absolute right. Robert Bork, an ultra-conservative legal scholar, argued that the Second Amendment "guarantees militias to the states, not guns to individuals." Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia agrees that the Second Amendment is not an absolute right.

Article I, Section 8, Numbers 15 and 16 of the Constitution confirms the restrictive nature of the Second Amendment by giving Congress the power of "calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions," and providing "for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, and for governing such a part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states, respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress."

The militias of Madison's day, and as cited in the Second Amendment, are obsolete, having been replaced by our National Guard. Citizens stockpiling weapons, and para-military groups, are outside the protection of the Second Amendment.

Denton May

Dolores