Much has been made in the mainstream media the past few days, of an exchange between Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Texas' new U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.
The exchange was during a committee hearing regarding Feinstein's proposal to ban certain firearms and high capacity magazines.
To those who haven't seen the exchange, here it is in a nutshell: Cruz asked Feinstein if she would make exceptions to other amendments in the Bill of Rights, like limiting which books we can read under free speech regulations. Feinstein replied that she was "not a sixth grader" and that, while not a lawyer, she understood the Constitution and didn't need a lecture from Cruz. She feigned being offended to the max, all while never addressing Cruz's legitimate question.
Feinstein's hissy fit made for good television and thus, predictably, the media focused solely on that exchange. There was another moment however, while quieter and gentler, screamed much louder and speaks many more volumes.
Towards the end of the exchange, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) pipes up and says "none of these rights are absolute."
Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote our nation's Declaration of Indepen-dence, thought otherwise. He declared in that document that there are certain inalienable rights, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that are only endowed by our Creator. In other words, those rights are natural and absolute – not given by man or governments, but rather we are born with them.
He also stated that: "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated, but with his wrath?"
Other's have said that there are no absolute rights and they even point to a Jefferson quote as proof, when he said: "All natural rights may be abridged or modified in their exercise by law." They use this quote to justify laws that trample individual freedoms, or limit those freedoms. They are wrong.
I believe what Jefferson meant was that when one's exercise of their natural rights tramples basic human morals, or the natural and absolute rights of others (i.e. murder, rape, pillage, etc.) then the people as a whole (government) has a right to step in and take that offenders rights away via prison, death sentence and other means. What it does not mean is that government has a right to limit other citizens rights, merely because someone may or may not do something in the future.
To say something as Durbin did either shows a complete lack of judgment, or a lack of common sense – neither of which is needed in the upper chamber of our legislative body.
The belief that no rights are absolute, is a belief that leads to tyranny.
Many folks will pass that statement off as paranoia, or as hysteria. However, while it is my belief that many who come down on the side of Feinstein's bill, or that discounted Rand Paul's fillibuster are wrong, I do not doubt their sincerity, their passion or their belief that these measures will keep others safe. I do, however, doubt those that will come later and still have these powers and I am not willing to sacrifice this nation's ideals or principles in the name of a little safety and security now.
It's too big of a slippery slope. After all, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin