Surrendering Rights Places Liberty in Jeopardy

To misinterpret the intent of our founding documents (the Declaration of Independence, the New Hampshire Constitution and the U.S. Constitution) is to place our very liberty in jeopardy.

A person may choose not to exercise their inherited rights so clearly defined within each of these documents, as well as the Mayflower Compact and the Articles of Confederation. But to apply that same standard onto their neighbors is to open the door to autocracy and surrender the rights of others when it is not yours to surrender.

When our Founding Fathers put pen to paper I have no doubt there were many advances they could not have imagined, just as many of us cannot envision what the future holds. The Founding Fathers were not trying to define the mechanism we would use to ensure our freedoms. Through the Declaration of Independence, the N.H. Constitution and U.S. Constitution they delivered the very apparatus designed to ensure a simple truth: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Among men and women, our Founding Fathers trusted that we would not be limited by the technology of their day, but be guided by the wisdom of their words.

When the Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment, they could not envision a 24-hour news cycle, the Internet, e-mail or smartphones. They were not distracted by attempting to define the method of delivery in which a person would exercise their free speech, religion or expression. They were only concerned that every person, regardless of their station in life, could openly and honestly speak their mind, especially when doing so to address any “long train of abuses and usurpations.” They understood, as so many do today, that the pen is mighty, even if that pen was later replaced with a laptop, tablet or a video camera.

The Founding Fathers could not have envisioned attack drones, satellites, hand-held infrared or X-ray devices when they wrote the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments; but surely they knew these amendments were needed to stop the abuses of an unchecked government, affording due process to all and preventing the abuse of a corrupt judiciary.

If the technology does not bind us in our ability to exercise all of our other enumerated rights, why then do some choose to apply a different standard when it pertains to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 2a of the N.H. Constitution? I understand the impulse to act on emotions and blame the mechanism, and not the oppressor, for an evil act such as the Sandy Hook tragedy. But that still does not give anyone the “right” to infringe upon the liberties of their law-abiding neighbors, who are deserving of these unalienable rights.

Someone recently suggested that “a person has a right to bear arms. But only if it is a musket, like they had when the Constitution was written.” He might as well have said, “a person has a right to free speech. But only if they use a quill and jar of ink, like they did when the Constitution was written.” Our rights are not defined by the limits we may choose to impose upon ourselves, but by whether we embrace that there are truths that are in fact self-evident. The Second Amendment is not about hunting or target shooting, but about our individual and collective right of self-defense and to resist tyranny. But be assured, the very liberties you enjoy today have as much to do with the Second Amendment and Article 2a as any other unalienable right. And though you may choose not to exercise that right, know that its existence ensures you can exercise all of your rights.

We are all heirs of a unique societal covenant, one that ensures us all “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Not granted or defined by man, but endowed by our creator. But that covenant is not without a price; it demands we serve as benefactors to those who will follow us. Each American generation must fight and defend our liberty, not bound by the technology of the day, but unrestricted by the absolute truths that have existed throughout human history.

New Hampshire patriots William Whipple, Josiah Bartlett, Mathew Thornton, John Langdon and Nicolas Gilman were not bound by the cynics of their time, but gathered together unrestricted by the quandaries of any self-imposed perceptions, to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” And with that shared vision, not only proved a truly free country could be born, but ensured that men and women everywhere would know real liberty.

You are free to surrender any of the rights and freedoms that so many have fought and “paid the last full measure of devotion” to gain and secure for you. But make no mistake, your foolishness does not extend beyond the limits of your being; and thank God, because one day that neighbor you condemn as a “nut” or blindly ridicule as a “tea bagger” will be there when your liberty is in peril, because he/she chose to honor and protect their inheritance.

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