Cheney Free Press -


Lawmakers must follow the law, which means the U.S. Constitution

Guest Commentary


January 25, 2018

The Washington State Legislature is back in session debating ways to balance the budget while fully funding schools and trying to end run the Constitution on gun control. Encouraged by our state attorney general and governor, we have joined 15 other states considering state laws to limit the size of magazines, outlaw bump stocks and ban assault rifles.

I have no real problem with any of these restrictions. I don’t even care much for pistols. I used to have one and discovered it was only useful if I wanted to shoot my neighbors. At the time, I kind of liked my neighbors so I traded my pistol for another shotgun.

I have no objection to my neighbors owning pistols as long as they don’t point them in my direction. I do object, however, to elected officials who know the law but spend considerable time and effort trying to find a way around it.

This thing we call America is more than a country, it is an idea — the idea that nations can be governed by law. For thousands of years, the people of the world gathered into geographical clusters and allowed themselves to be governed by despots who were successful in convincing their subjects they ruled by divine right. It took our forefathers less than five years after independence to discover that the states needed each other to survive. Thus, they wrote a law, a constitution and set out on a journey to a new destination.

The U.S. Constitution is a magnificent document. It replaced rule of kings with the rule of law. It is an experiment in government that only works if those in power accept the fundamental law of the land.

Foundations must be flexible enough to account for unforeseen circumstances and to adjust to a changing landscape. Our Constitution must also be able to accommodate change.

The capability to change is built in. If 15 states see a need to amend our lawful right to bear arms, 15 states should be clamoring for a constitutional amendment. Our governor and attorney general haven’t done that. They apparently agree with those who believe an amendment would be too difficult.

Our Constitution defines the hierarchy of law. Federal statutes take precedent over those of the states. Our governor and attorney general have taken great delight in thumbing their noses at federal authority. They have even had some success in shopping for judges who support their efforts to circumvent the Constitution.

These challenges set a dangerous precedent. Elected officials and judges who flout the law are an invitation to despotism. Sanctuary cities and openly defying federal immigration regulations are threats to the rule of law.

Our governor and attorney general both have political aspirations beyond their present positions. I hope they don’t sacrifice national interests to reach their goals. The American experiment in democracy is still fragile.

Frank Watson is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and long-time resident of Eastern Washington. He has been a free-lance columnist for over 19 years.


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