Reagan DOJ Attorney Urges Support For Convention of States

The following are excerpts from an open letter written by founding member and chairman of Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, Charles J. Cooper, who was a former Justice Department Chief Constitutional lawyer under the Reagan Administration and the former chairman of the President’s Working Group on Federalism. In addition to his practice and other professional endeavors, Cooper serves on the Legal Board of Reference for the Convention of States Project. His full letter can be read here.

Our constitutional rights, especially our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, are in peril.

With every tragic violent crime, liberals renew their demands for Congress and state legislatures to enact so-called “commonsense gun control” measures designed to chip away at our individual constitutional right to armed self defense. Indeed, were it not for the determination and sheer political muscle of the National Rifle Association, Senator Feinstein’s 2013 bill to outlaw so-called “assault weapons” and other firearms might well have passed.

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The most potent threat facing the Second Amendment comes not from Congress, but from the Supreme Court.

Four justices of the Supreme Court do not believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms. They believe that Congress and state legislatures are free not only to restrict firearms ownership by law-abiding Americans, but to ban firearms altogether. If the Liberals get one more vote on the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment will be no more.

The real threat to our constitutional rights is posed not by an Article V convention of the states, but by an out-of-control federal government, exercising powers that it does not have and abusing powers that it does. The federal government’s unrelenting encroachment upon the sovereign rights of the states and the individual rights of citizens, and the Supreme Court’s failure to prevent it, have led me to join the Legal Board of Reference for the Convention of States Project.

The Project’s mission is to urge 34 state legislatures to call for an Article V convention limited to proposing constitutional amendments that “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit its power and jurisdiction, and impose term limits on its officials and members of Congress.”

Our mission is to reclaim our democratic and individual freedoms from an overreaching federal government. The Framers of our Constitution carefully limited the federal government’s powers by specifically enumerating those powers in Article I, and the states promptly ensured that the Constitution would expressly protect the “right of the people to keep and bear arms” by adopting the Second Amendment.

But the Framers understood human nature, and they could foresee a day when the federal government would yield to the “encroaching spirit of power,” as James Madison put in the Federalist Papers, and would invade the sovereign domain of the states and infringe the rights of the citizens.

The Framers also knew that the states would be powerless to remedy the federal government’s encroachments if the process of amending the Constitution could be initiated only by Congress; as Alexander Hamilton noted in the Federalist Papers, “the national government will always be disinclined to yield up any portion of the authority” it claims. So the Framers wisely equipped the states with the means of reclaiming their sovereign powers and protecting the rights of their citizens, even in the face of congressional opposition.

Article V vests the states with unilateral power to convene for the purpose of proposing constitutional amendments and to control the amending process from beginning to end on all substantive matters. The day foreseen by the Framers – the day when the federal government far exceeded the limits of its enumerated powers – arrived many years ago. The Framers took care in Article V to equip the people, acting through their state legislatures, with the power to put a stop to it. It is high time they used it.

Charles J. Cooper is a founding member and chairman of Cooper & Kirk, PLLC. Named by The National Law Journal as one of the 10 best civil litigators in Washington, he has over 35 years of legal experience in government and private practice, with several appearances before the United States Supreme Court and scores of other successful cases on both the trial and appellate levels.


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