Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; April 30, 2012:
The end of session is near
Reports over the last week proclaim the urgency with which the current Republican dominated General Assembly is planning to conclude its business and leave town in a rush to proclaim success, that it “matters who governs” and to seduce the public with claims of the constitutionally sound and conservative leadership that they have brought to the General Assembly after approximately 160 years of being denied control by the citizens of the State of Tennessee.
From the perspective of many true constitutional conservatives, there will be many ways to assess these self-serving claims of the members of the General Assembly. Some will look at the results and assess leadership, some will assess the caucuses as a whole, and some will examine the influence of Haslam as the books close on the accomplishments and failures. All will have to evaluate the acts and omissions, representations and misrepresentations of individual legislators as all of the House and one-half of the Senate stand before the citizens asking to be returned to Mount Olympus for another term.
The citizens will be inundated with the campaign assurances of the incumbents and with the challenges from hopefully well qualified challengers. Citizens must be reflective on what has been and has not been done by these incumbents as they attempt to become listeners and friends to the voters one again. Citizens must be on alert as the incumbents descend the steps from Mount Olympus and pretend to be mere mortals during the election cycle.
As citizens prepare for this most important duty, it is critical that they have ready recollection of the last few years and that they be prepared to challenge the claims of success against the constitutional measure of true success. Citizens must know the oath that was taken by each incumbent and assess the acts and omissions against that minimum threshold. There are some, a very few, who will clearly have honored their oaths. There are many others who have not and have yield not to the allegiance professed in the oath but to other interests or pressures.
Some ask, what is this oath? It is not an aspirational statement. It is a commitment that these individual incumbents each took and that each successful challenger will take. Taken from the TENNESSEE STATE CONSTITUTION – ARTICLE X. OATHS
§ 2. Oath of Office; General Assembly
Each member of the Senate and House of Representatives, shall before they proceed to business take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of this State, and of the United States and also the following oath:
“I ………. do solemnly swear (or affirm) that as a member of this General Assembly, I will, in all appointments, vote without favor, affection, partiality, or prejudice; and that I will not propose or assent to any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to me injurious to the people, or consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this State”.
Each of these legislators take an oath of office that they will first and foremost support the Constitution(s). The right of the citizens to keep, bear and wear arms is EXPRESSLY protected under each constitution in the 2nd Amendment and Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution.
Note that they take an oath that says that they will NOT “… consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this State”. That affirmation draws an unequivocal line that they cannot cross. That is that no change in law, statute or policy will be allowed which would or could lessen or impair not only those privileges created in the constitutions but those RIGHTS which exist independent of the constitutions. The rights of self-defense, political resistance, and the related rights to keep, bear and wear arms are such rights.
Examining briefly this oath under the Safe Commute law, it cannot be argued that the right to keep and bear arms, and under the statute constitution the right to wear arms either pre-existing and are protected by the constitution or are otherwise expressly recognized therein. In the opposition to the Safe Commute legislation, many legislators expressed their concerns about the “right of property” in the citizens. In making that claim, one must wonder what provision of the Constitution(s) they are relying on since no such express declaration is readily apparent. To the contrary, the Tennessee Constitution expressly prohibits the from making any law recognizing the right of property in man and not once has the General Assembly given any explanation for its refusal to pass the Safe Commute act when its reliance on the “property rights” argument is in direct contravention of another provision of the state Constitution:
Section 34. The General Assembly shall make no law recognizing the right of property in man.
Of course, however, we also see that many of these elected officials, and by their own declaration Haslam, Harwell and Ramsey are in this group, also chose to ignore not only the 2nd Amendment but other constitutional provisions as well. For example, Tennessee Constitution, Article 6, Section 3, provides
§ 3. Supreme court judges
The Judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State. The Legislature shall have power to prescribe such rules as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of section two of this article. Every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be thirty-five years of age, and shall before his election have been a resident of the State for five years. His term of service shall be eight years.
It is the same verb used with respect to the selection of legislators (Art II, Sec. 3 and 15), the governor (Art III, Sec 4), the judges of the circuit and chancery courts (Art VI, Sec 4), circuit court clerks (Art VI, Sec 13), militia officers (Art VIII, Sec. 1), all county officers (Art VII, Sec. 1). Where, as in the instance of the Attorney General a position is not “elected” by the people but filed by another branch of governor, the Constitution distinguishes those instances by the use of the term “appointed” (Art. VI, Sec. 5) where local district attorneys are elected (Art. VI, Sec 5).
Thus, notwithstanding the significance of the Constitution to their oaths, there are many apparently in the General Assembly and the office of Governor who either do not read it, do not understand it or simply have chosen to ignore the very basics of our Constitution and their obligations and limits thereunder. The question is to what extent the voters will demand accountability and invoke consequences in November.
The Emperor’s Clothes
An examination of the events of the 107th General Assembly, particularly under GOP leadership and its allegiance to Big Business while otherwise proclaiming conservative guidance and constitutional principles evokes images eerily reminding true constitutional conservatives of the short story by Hans Christian Anderson “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.
The plot, from Wikipedia, is of:
[a] vain Emperor who cares for nothing but his appearance and attire hires two tailors who are really swindlers that promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or “just hopelessly stupid”. The Emperor cannot see the cloth himself, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing unfit for his position; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor then marches in procession before his subjects, who play along with the pretense. Suddenly, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but holds himself up proudly and continues the procession.
In assessing the 107th General Assembly, its Republican leadership, its caucuses and their leadership, and the acts of individual legislators (some but not all), the question is not whether the General Assembly and Governor are clothed but more specifically whether and to what extent they are truly constitutional conservatives. There are those among the 2nd Amendment community, other conservative groups and even bloggers who follow the example of the Emperor’s subjects and consequently who pretend that the cloth of constitutional soundness exists when they know it does not and do so solely perhaps in order to remain in the good graces of the emperor. There are others, who are hopefully a growing majority this year, who will shun the pretense that a blatant falsehood can be disregarded and who will honestly declare that the emperor is wearing no [constitutional] wardrobe at all.