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NAGR Response 3

Before we get started on today’s exercise in overcoming fear with knowledge and truth, I want to thank you for hanging in there and taking the time to read these. Because we can’t properly exercise our right and duty of self-governance if we don’t take the time to distinguish fact from fiction.

Today I want to address this part of Dudley Brown’s e-mail:

“A Constitutional Convention will not solve the problem. … The last and only time was in 1787, when the original Constitutional Convention threw out the Articles of Confederation, an action which far exceeded the authority granted. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger said it even more clearly: ‘I have repeatedly given my opinion that there is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. The Convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress may try to limit the Convention to one amendment or one issue, but there is no way to assure that the Convention would obey. After a Convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the Convention if we don’t like its agenda. The meeting in 1787 ignored the limit placed by the Confederation Congress “for the sole and express purpose.’”

In other words, Dudley Brown doesn’t know the difference between an Article V Convention for proposing amendments, on the one hand, and a Constitutional Convention, on the other. (We'll get to Chief Justice Burger in a moment).

The 1787 Constitutional Convention was a gathering of states in their capacities as sovereign states, for the purpose of designing a better system of government for the Union. Obviously, it was not an Article V Convention--there was no Article V yet! And there was no Article V-equivalent in the Articles of Confederation.

An Article V Convention for proposing amendments is a gathering of states under the specific authority and procedure set forth in Article V, for the purpose of proposing amendments to “this Constitution” (the one we already have).

As my esteemed colleague, Robert Berry explained, “[A]s sovereigns, the states have never needed permission from the Constitution to call an actual Constitutional Convention. Indeed, the only reason to invoke Article V would be to self-limit the convention's authority to ‘proposing amendments,’ as the assembly’s name indicates.”

And there's something else you need to know. Every time Dudley or anyone else alleges that the 1787 Constitutional Convention was a “runaway,” he defames the very Constitution that he claims to want to defend. Our Constitution is not an illegitimate document forced upon the people by rogue politicians. Those who think otherwise don’t know their history.

They think that the Confederation Congress called the Constitutional Convention, and they cite the Confederation Congress’ recommendation that the states meet “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.” (Note that even this recommendation was for the Articles to be revised—not merely amended). But they miss the forest for the trees; Congress didn’t call the Constitutional Convention, so it doesn’t matter what Congress suggested the agenda be! The states called the Constitutional Convention pursuant to their residual sovereignty, and gave the relevant instructions to their appointed delegates.

Repeatedly, a fringe group of self-proclaimed experts make this defamatory argument about our Constitution, and they love to cite Chief Justice Warren Burger as their authority. There are two problems with using this tired Burger quote to support this position. First, it’s completely circular. Burger is discussing what might happen at a “constitutional convention,” for which no one is calling. Second, even if Burger is simply using the wrong terminology because he, like Dudley, didn’t understand the difference between the two types of conventions, do you really want to take your constitutional cues from the Chief Justice whose Court gave us the decision broadly recognized as one of the worst-reasoned disasters in the history of constitutional law--Roe v. Wade?

I'm guessing you don't. I'm guessing that you're ready to do what it takes to use the constitutional process outlined in Article V to preclude activist Courts, activist Presidents, and activist Congresses from federalizing more and more of the policies and decisions that should be made at the state, local, and individual levels. I'm also guessing I don't need to convince you on this process. What I do need to do is to convince you to forward this to your friends that are being swayed by the likes of the Dudley Brown and his National Association of Gun Rights. Make sure they hear the truth from you.