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  • Denis Pepin

The Constitution is Not a Buffet: The Conflict Between the Right to Bear Arms and the Right to Disqualify Trump from Office

Updated: Mar 30

A person in a suit and a starry top hat balancing the 2nd and 14th Amendments on a scale, and holding a gun in their other hand, in front of an American flag
A person holding guns and a pair of scales with the 2nd and 14th Amendments, illustrating the contrast between the revered but outdated right to bear arms and the contested but relevant right to disqualify Trump. It is striking to observe that some who are devoted and willing to die for the 2nd Amendment would easily disregard the 14th Amendment. This is similar to those who interpret the Bible in ways that only serve their specific prejudices and neglect the rest. This shows a selective and contradictory approach to the Constitution and its principles, which is motivated by ideology and bias, rather than by logic and facts. The Constitution is not a menu, where one can select and reject what fits their preference and goal, and discard what does not. The Constitution is a whole, where each part is linked and dependent, and where each right and duty is balanced and moderated by another.

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to bar former President Donald Trump from the state’s Republican primary ballot has sparked a heated debate over the meaning and scope of the 14th Amendment, Section 3, which prohibits anyone who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States from holding any public office. The ruling, which was based on Trump’s role in inciting the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, is likely to be challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, where the fate of Trump’s political future and the 2024 presidential election may hang in the balance.

The 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868, in the aftermath of the Civil War, to protect the rights and citizenship of the newly freed slaves and to prevent the former Confederate states from rejoining the Union without accepting the constitutional changes. Section 3 of the amendment states:


"No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."


The purpose of this section was to prevent the former Confederate leaders and officials from regaining power and undermining the reconstruction efforts of the federal government. The section has been rarely invoked since then, and has never been applied to a former president. The Colorado court, however, found that Trump’s actions before and during the Capitol riot amounted to insurrection or rebellion, and disqualified him from the ballot under the 14th Amendment. The court rejected Trump’s arguments that he was merely exercising his First Amendment rights of free speech and political expression, and that the 14th Amendment did not apply to the presidency, only to other federal and state offices.



The court’s ruling is unprecedented and controversial, and has been met with both praise and criticism from legal experts, politicians, and the public. Some have applauded the ruling as a courageous and principled stand against Trump’s attempts to subvert the democratic process and the peaceful transfer of power. They have argued that the 14th Amendment is a vital safeguard against tyranny and sedition, and that Trump’s conduct clearly violated its spirit and letter. They have also pointed out that the amendment gives Congress the power to remove the disability by a two-thirds vote, which would provide a democratic check on the court’s decision.


Others have denounced the ruling as a partisan and unconstitutional attack on Trump’s rights and supporters. They have argued that the 14th Amendment is a relic of the Civil War era, and that its application to Trump is anachronistic and inappropriate. They have also claimed that the court’s interpretation of insurrection or rebellion is too broad and vague, and that it could be used to disqualify anyone who disagrees with the government or protests against its policies. They have also questioned the court’s authority to decide who can run for president, and have suggested that the ruling is an attempt to interfere with the will of the voters and the electoral college.


The Colorado ruling is not the final word on Trump’s eligibility, as it is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices will have to grapple with the complex and contentious issues raised by the case. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the meaning or scope of the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause, and has only addressed the amendment in a handful of cases, mostly related to civil rights and due process. The court’s decision will have significant implications for the 2024 presidential election, as it could determine whether Trump can run again or not, and how his supporters and opponents will react to the outcome.


The Colorado ruling also highlights a broader and deeper conflict in American society and politics, which is the clash between two different visions of the Constitution and its role in the nation’s life. On one hand, there are those who view the Constitution as a living document, that evolves and adapts to changing circumstances and values, and that empowers the courts and the government to protect the rights and welfare of the people. On the other hand, there are those who view the Constitution as a fixed and sacred text, that preserves the original intent and meaning of the framers, and that limits the power and scope of the courts and the government to interfere with the liberty and sovereignty of the people.


This conflict is especially evident in the debate over the Second Amendment, which protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment was adopted in 1791, as part of the Bill of Rights, to ensure the security of a free state and the ability of the people to resist tyranny and oppression. The amendment states:


"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."


The meaning and scope of the Second Amendment has been the subject of much controversy and litigation, especially in recent decades, as the nation has faced a rise in gun violence and mass shootings. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess and use firearms for lawful purposes, such as self-defense, and that this right applies to the states through the 14th Amendment. However, the court has also recognized that the right is not absolute, and that it is subject to reasonable regulation by the government, such as background checks, licensing, and bans on certain types of weapons.


The debate over the Second Amendment reflects a deeper divide in American culture and values, which is the tension between individualism and collectivism, or between liberty and security. On one hand, there are those who cherish the Second Amendment as a symbol and guarantee of their freedom and independence, and who view any restriction or regulation of their right to bear arms as an infringement and a threat. On the other hand, there are those who fear the Second Amendment as a source and cause of violence and chaos, and who seek to limit or regulate the right to bear arms for the sake of public safety and order.



It is striking to observe that some who are devoted and willing to die for the Second Amendment would easily disregard the 14th Amendment. This is similar to those who interpret the Bible in ways that only serve their specific prejudices and neglect the rest. This shows a selective and contradictory approach to the Constitution and its principles, which is motivated by ideology and bias, rather than by logic and facts. The Constitution is not a menu, where one can cherry-pick what fits their preference and goal, and discard what does not. The Constitution is a whole, where each part is linked and dependent, and where each right and duty is balanced and moderated by another.


The Constitution, far from being a fixed and antiquated document tethered to the past, is a dynamic and adaptable instrument. It does not exist as an inert decree dictated by a select few but rather as a living spirit, respected and embraced by the multitude. Rather than a divisive weapon, it functions as a protective shield, fostering unity and safeguarding against oppression.

 

In contrast to a problematic entity requiring avoidance, the Constitution is a solution to be applied and embraced. Rather than a source of conflict and despair, it is a blessing that promotes peace and prosperity. Instead of a burdensome weight holding us back, it is a gift that propels us forward.

 

The Constitution is not subject to personal interpretations; rather, it is a factual guide comprehended through reason and conscience. It transcends mere preference, rooted in enduring principles upheld through duty and honor. It is not a matter of convenience to be ignored at will but a commitment to be defended in the face of challenges.

 

Moving beyond politics, the Constitution embodies patriotism and shared ideals. It serves as a unifying force rather than a divisive tool. Far from being consigned to history, it leaves a lasting legacy to be remembered and cherished by present and future generations. It is not a predetermined fate but a matter of choice shaped by our collective actions.

 

The Constitution is a responsibility to be fulfilled, an opportunity to be seized, and a vision to be realized. It is not limited to a written document but extends to a spoken dialogue, a lived value, and a celebrated culture. It is not a privilege taken for granted but a right appreciated and respected. Rather than an obstacle, it is a guide, a bridge, an opportunity welcomed and embraced.

 

It is not a weakness to be exploited but a strength to be supported. It is not a threat but a promise to be fulfilled. It is not a source of division but a source of unity. It is not a cause of conflict but a cause of peace. It is not a reason for hatred but a reason for love.

 

In essence, the Constitution is not merely a matter of opinion, preference, or convenience. It is a matter of fact, principle, commitment, justice, patriotism, unity, and legacy. It is our Constitution—our responsibility, opportunity, and vision. Let us honor, defend, uphold, improve, live, share, and cherish it.



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