Date: August 8, 2003
Subject: Federalism

Last night I attended the town hall meeting of my Congressman, Jim Ramstad. You should go to your Congressman's town hall meeting. You would probably rub shoulders with a who's who of your local community. Over 100 persons packed a meeting room in the new Wayzata city center last night to see and hear Ramstad. In addition to regular taxpayers and voters, in the audience were state legislators Sen. Gen Olson and Rep. Barb Sykora, Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Koblick, Governor Tim Pawlenty's staffer Paul Anderson, a Wayzata Schools staffer and a school board member, the Wayzata chamber of commerce president, and many others.

Some of the questions from the audience pointed out the alarming lack of effective goverment and citizenship education in this country. These were asked by mature adults who should know better.

One gentleman delivered a fear-mongering rant to repeal the Minnesota Personal Protection Act, also known as the "conceal carry" law, and a general rant against private gun ownership in general. People are even afraid to go to church! We're arming a shadow militia! He claimed to be an NRA member, and asked for a show of hands to find out who favored the new law, and who opposed it (the nays had it overwhelmigly). And he wanted the federal government to do something about it!

Now that I have your attention, this is not going to turn into a debate on conceal-carry, may issue vs. shall issue. This is relevant to us because what this man failed to acknowledge, even after this was repeatedly pointed out by the Congressman, is that gun control laws in general are state laws:

U.S. Constitution, Article X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Of course, the federal Constitution does speak to guns:

Article II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Others seemed to believe that they were addressing the mayor or a state legislator, rather than a U.S. Congressman. The concepts of the separation of powers, and limitations on the federal government, have been lost on a generation. Large numbers of citizens look to the federal government to solve all of our problems. And this was in Wayzata, not exactly known as a hotbed of liberal thought.

Are you up to a challenge? Try taking this test on the Constitution. I was unpleasantly surprised at how poorly I did: see http://www.federalist.com/histdocs/constitutiontest.htm

The answer to this shortfall in government and civics education, as I was able to point out at the Q&A microphone last night, is not another federal education program. HR 1078 would create "Presidential Academies" to teach history and civics to teachers and students. According to the Tenth Amendment, education is left to the states. If the federal government is that worried about government and civics education in this country, it should repeal the No Child Left Behind Act, and relieve the people of the tax burden to support this dubious program (all but one of the Minnesota Congressional delegation voted No on HR 1, for a variety of reasons). I urged Ramstand to vote No on HR 1078.

Or as Thomas Jefferson said,

If it is believed that... elementary schools will be better managed by the governor and council, the commissioners of the literary fund or any other general authority of the government than by the parents within each ward, it is a belief against all experience. Try the principle one step further, and... commit to the governor and council the management of all our farms, our mills and merchants' stores... No, my friend, the way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to.