Friday, June 20, 2014


Boy, but it's been a long time since I've written anything on this blog. I just haven't wanted to spend the time. But we have a couple local issues that I feel compelled to weigh in on and this seems like the best place to do it.

For some reason, here in my fair state of Missouri, we love our Constitutional amendments. We always seem to have one or two on just about every ballot. The August elections this year are no different. Amendment 1 and Amendment 5 are both waiting for our decision. Amendment 1 is titled "Right to Farm" while Amendment 5 is going by the moniker "Right to Keep and Bear Arms".

I'm not so concerned about the intent of the amendments, at least directly. I'm all for farming and carrying guns. It's the language and the specificity of it that concerns me. One seems to be well written and thought out while the other just seems designed to keep a whole bunch of lawyers the taxpayers expenses.

First, the text from Amendment 1:

 "Section 35. That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri."

Now, for Amendment 5:

"Section 23. That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of his home, person, family and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned. The rights guaranteed by this section shall be unalienable. Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny and the state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the general assembly from enacting general laws which limit the rights of convicted violent felons or those duly adjudged mentally infirm by a court of competent jurisdiction"

Amendment 5 does a good job of defining the nature of the right and exactly who it applies to. The right is defined as inalienable, meaning that it is part of our nature and given to us by our creator (Declaration of Independence). This amendment appeals to Natural Law. It goes on to describe the right and to codify and explain the justifiable ways that the state might infringe upon it. In other words, just like the United States Constitution, it does not confer a right but instead recognizes that the right exists apart from government and only attempts to clearly limit the government in its ability to hamper the free exercise of that right.

Amendment 1 is a whole different fish. The language is vague. One has to wonder if this is intentional. Because of this, it is open to a wide variation in interpretation. And that will mean plenty of time in court.

Let's take a look at some of the areas I see as problematic. To begin with there's the problem of who confers the right. Is it the state? It appears to be since it is "...subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri." The state is not subject to the right because the right does not supercede the state. It is not a natural law right but instead a civil right. It is subject to political and judicial whim.

What the state gives the state can take away. This is not a right but a privilege granted by the state. In affect it is no different than a drivers license.

Secondly, to whom does it apply? According to the text it only protects "...the right of farmers and ranchers...". So, it's a civil right and it has been written narrowly, protecting a certain class of business. It doesn't protect the guy with a few chickens or a garden in his yard. It doesn't protect the right to feed one's self from one's own property as an extension of the natural law right to life. This amendment is designed to protect a special interest group. No more, no less.

Unless farmers and ranchers is defined very broadly. But then the only way we'll know how to define it is after the lawyers line their pockets in court.

Thirdly, there's this line, "...engage in farming and ranching practices...". Which practices? Subsistence farming on a small scale or giant agricultural operations with arguably destructive practices. Can a massive feed lot or egg operation move in next to my property, claim a right to farm and destroy the value of my land without me even being able to raise an objection? Or, as is more likely, can that operation just say, "Take me to court and we'll argue it there!", knowing full well that I don't have the resources to fight them?

Comparing these two amendments, one well written, the other a sloppy and open ended piece of sophistry, I have to ask myself, is the author of Amendment 1 really that incompetent? Or, was this amendment written as it was to open the door to special interests running roughshod over rural communities.

I tend to think it was the latter.

So, I can't support it. As much as I despise the groups that are backing the opposition.