In one of the less rational attacks on the NRA to date, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Josh Horwitz used his May 20 column to make the case that the NRA doesn’t understand the Constitution or the man who wrote it–James Madison.
According to Horwitz, this was proven at the NRA’s Annual Meeting in Houston during the first weekend in May. There, speakers gave speeches on what “sounded a lot like vigilantism and anarchy” and very little like the adoration for governmental power that Horwitz claims our Founding Fathers enshrined in the Constitution.
To back up his claims, Horwitz said the Founding Fathers–of which Madison was one–believed a “monopoly on force” was the “fundamental organizing principle of any nation-state.” Building on this, Horwitz claimed the purpose of the Constitution was to put force on the side of government by using the rule of law as way to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare,” etc.
In making these claims, Horwitz failed to differentiate between Founding Fathers who were federalists–these were those who believed government power ought to be predominant–and those who were anti-federalists–these were those who believed the power of the citizenry via the states ought to be predominant.
He also fails to show that a few Founders, like Madison, took federalist positions on some points and anti-federalist positions on others. This is why Madison was the author of the Constitution, an undeniably federalist document, and the author of the 2nd Amendment, an equally undeniable check on the federalist government Madison helped fashion.
Horwitz was able to do this by quoting Madison in part, rather than in full.
For example, Horwitz quoted Madison’s famous line from Federalist 51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Left by itself, this seems to be a solid proof that Madison believed government power should be predominant, period. But Horwitz conveniently failed to highlight the next phrase of that famous quote: “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
In other words, the same author who justified our form of government by highlighting the wicked propensity of men also highlighted the need for men to hold that government in check because it was a government that would be run by men with wicked propensities.
The Constitution is one of the internal controls that Madison referenced and the 2nd Amendment is an external one.
Therefore, NRA doesn’t show themselves ignorant of the Constitution or Madison by focusing on the importance of an armed citizenry. Madison himself wrote that such a citizenry was “necessary to the security of a free state.”