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  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

Henry Thornton, No 66

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Henry has been feeling poorly and so Mrs T will be doing the weekly blog. I hope to be back on deck next week.


The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,he people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." . It was ratified on December 15, 1791.


The Founding Fathers were of the view that citizens should be able to protect themselves against any threat to their wellbeing or personal freedom including the threat posed by governments. A number of these Founding Fathers held the belief that government are prone to use soldiers to oppress the citizenery.


The federation of the states of the USA involved a massive shift in power from the states to the federal government. Anti-federalists argued that the proposed constitution would remove from the states their ability to defend themselves against a federal government. The second amendment went some distance in assuaging this concern.

In summary the second amendment – the right to bear arms - seemed like a good idea at the time.


Today however things are different and it doesn’t seem such a good idea. After each of a sadly never-ending series of American school massacres there is yet another call for gun control. And this call fails because it would be well-nigh impossible to get rid of the second amendment. What was simple to put in place would be exceptionally difficult to remove.


The upcoming referendum on the Voice appears to many a good idea. But there are two powerful arguments against it. First it is wrong in principle as it would undermine the equality of citizens. Second it is unlikely to succeed in practice. All of the other indigenous “voices” that have advised government on indigenous affairs have been spectacularly unsuccessful. Why would we expect that this time it would be different?


But amending our constitution to include the Voice has a far more serious downside than setting up an advisory body such as ATSIC. Certainly the Federal government is not required to accept any particular proposals put forward by the voice. But unfortunately there will be no easy way to get rid of the Voice itself if it proves to be a failure. That would entail another referendum with the high standard of support success requires


So in addition to the Voice being wrong in principle and unlikely to succeed in practice it would be well nigh impossible to get rid of it if it does not work.

What seemed like a good idea in the USA in 1791 does not seem nearly so good an idea today. And so the school massacres continue with no serious hope of gun control. We in Australia should be extremely careful about modifying a Constitution that has served us well.


Paul Keating said if you don’t understand it don’t vote for it. I would suggest in regard to the Voice that if you do understand it you won’t vote for it.


Elizabeth Prior Jonson




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