Today, while most eyes are properly focused on the observance of Veterans Day, the Evergreen State is celebrating its 126th anniversary, which – according to a short history of how the state was created – was made possible only by the adoption of a state constitution back in 1889.
Washington became a state on this date, a fact far too many people seem to overlook or simply have forgotten. Where’s the Founder’s Day parade? Not even a courtesy headline in the Seattle Times, or a story on KING, KOMO or KIRO? There’s still time to rush a film crew down to the state museum in Tacoma for a quick history lesson during the 5 o’clock broadcast.
According to History Link, “One of the conditions established for statehood was approval of a state constitution. The 75 men elected to the State Constitutional Convention included 21 lawyers, 13 farmers, 6 merchants, 6 doctors, 5 bankers, 4 cattlemen, 3 teachers, 2 real-estate agents, 2 editors, 2 hop farmers, 2 loggers, 2 lumbermen, 1 minister, 1 surveyor, 1 fisherman, and 1 mining engineer. Between July 4 and August 24, 1889, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Olympia drafted the state constitution. On October 1, 1889, Washington citizens approved the State Constitution by a vote of 40,152 to 11,879.” Hmmm. Twenty-one lawyers and only one minister, eh?
A cornerstone of that document, which may be read here, was and remains Article I, Section 24. It is the Right to Bear Arms, and it is even stronger than the federal constitution’s Second Amendment. To the chagrin of those who believe the right belongs only to the state to form a militia, Washington’s founders knew differently: “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”
This is not the way a writer in The Forecaster, based in Falmouth, Maine, saw it Monday. Edgar Allen Beem, a freelance journalist living in Brunswick, writes a weekly perspective called “The Universal Notebook,” and he took up the subject of guns this week.
“In an ideal world,” Beem wrote, “here’s what we’d do about guns. First, we’d replace the Second Amendment with a law stating that gun ownership is a privilege, not a right. Only people over 21 who have passed an extensive background check and a gun safety course would be allowed to own firearms, subject to certain limitations.
“No automatic or semiautomatic weapons,” he continued. “No assault weapons. No high-capacity magazines. No silencers. Concealed-weapon permits issued by police only upon demonstrated need. All gun owners to drill once every two years with local law enforcement because, after all, the right to bear arms is not about hunting, it’s about maintaining a well-regulated militia.”
Well, Beem evidently “ain’t from around here,” as they say. He might get quite an argument from at least some of those 75 members of the Washington State Constitutional Convention, not to mention all the sons and daughters who went away to World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere to defend all of the rights delineated in the federal and state constitutions, not just those that are popular with self-styled “progressives.”
Rights aren’t to be taken for granted, nor are they up for replacement by privileges. According to Second Amendment activists, the one right that secures all the others is the right to keep and bear arms. Rights don’t come in the form of a buffet, where one can pick and choose what goes on the plate and what goes in the trash. The Bill of Rights, where the Second Amendment holds a place, is an all-or-nothing proposition.
Just how long does anyone believe the First Amendment would last if the Second were erased? How about the Fourth, Fifth or Sixth amendments? Liberals scoff at such a challenge, but only because they think they’d be in charge, and there is strong concern that freedom of speech and the press would be contingent upon following the party line in this brave new privileged world absent the right to bear arms. That’s the right that provides citizens with the freedom of speech to say “No” and mean it.
While the nation honors its veterans today, save a little cake and ice cream to remember those 75 individuals who crafted and approved Washington State’s constitution. They made this state possible, 126 years ago today, and despite how Seattle has turned out, the rest of Washington isn’t too bad a place to live.
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