It’s Like This
By Bob Palmer
JEFFERSON – Pct. 4 Commissioner Charlie Treadwell made an error Monday.
“Thomas Jefferson wrote the Constitution when he was 33 years of age,” Treadwell claimed at the commissioners court meeting.
Fact Check: Thomas Jefferson was 44 and living in Paris as the U.S. ambassador to France at the time of the Constitutional Convention, which took place in Philadelphia. Treadwell is not the first person to confuse Jefferson’s role as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence with his position as a sideline influencer of the Constitution.
Jefferson corresponded via letters with other founding fathers during the writing of the Constitution. Those with long memories may recall former U.S. Rep. Sam B. Hall, D-Marshall, making the same mistake at a 1962 campaign rally during his failed attempt to unseat Rep. Wright Patman, D-Texarkana.
Treadwell’s historical reference came during his motion to adopt a resolution declaring Marion County a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County.”
The gist of the document is that “unconstitutional” gun restrictions would not be enforced here, and it was up to Sheriff David McKnight to decide which gun laws were constitutional and which ones weren’t.
Fitting McKnight for a black robe and elevating him to the Supreme Court, which has the final say the last time I checked on what is or is not constitutional, may cause some smiles. As Jim Finstrom asked the court, however, does this “sanctuary” mean “laws won’t be enforced in Marion County or enforced as strongly here as everywhere?”
Perhaps McKnight, in order to limit confusion, should publish a list of which laws he will enforce and which ones he will let slide.
Treadwell admitted to the Jimplecute after Monday’s meeting adjourned that he was not aware of any present gun laws that are unconstitutional.
Turning to Jefferson for guidance, as Treadwell suggests, does offer some insight.
“There has just been opposition enough” to force adoption of a Bill of Rights, Jefferson wrote, “but not to drain the federal government of its essential ‘energy.’”
“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government,” Jefferson argued.
Later, however, he believed there should be boundaries.
“All natural rights may be abridged or modified in their exercise by law,” Jefferson concluded.
In 1822, Thomas Jefferson wrote to J. Morse that in theory citizens should be armed so that if necessary they could overthrow the government, but no such situation existed in the United States, where citizens could change the government at the ballot box.
Jefferson wrote J. Cartwright in 1824, “The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that… it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”
The last comment brings to mind the story of John Lawrence Burns, a 69-year-old veteran of the War of 1812. As A.P. Hill’s Confederates approached Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, Burns, a shoemaker, took his musket down from over the fireplace and stood with the thin line of Union troops defending his home.
Gun rights are important to our safety, our freedom, our pleasure and our self-esteem, but Jefferson correctly points out these rights can, and in many cases should, be limited by law.
This resolution would just be another piece of Republican grandstanding, playing to its base, if it were not attempting to declare Marion County above the Texas Legislature, Congress and the courts.
As such, Treadwell and the commissioners court got more than the historical reference to Jefferson wrong.
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