The state of Iowa’s motto reads as follows: “Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain.”
It’s a simple, yet powerful statement of Americanism, prizing our liberties and maintaining the rights we have been afforded throughout the country's — and Iowa’s — relatively young life. It is a sad state of affairs then, that State Sen. Claire Celsi, views one of the fundamental rights as Americans, the Second Amendment, as something trivial and petty and is ignorant of the amendment to boot.
Late last week, Celsi, Democratic state senator of District 21 in Des Moines, engaged in a twitter spat with a person whose name had been made redacted from screenshots of the interaction. This person asked a simple question of Celsi, “What part of ‘shall not be infringed’ do you not understand?” Celsi arrogantly responded, “The 2nd amendment also says well regulated. What part of ‘Well regulated’ do you not understand?”
My thoughts on the Second Amendment have been made clear in one of my March letters to the editor, so I will not exhaust a rehashing here, besides to say that Celsi conflates “well regulated” to meaning gun regulation, when in fact it means regulation of a militia when called into service.
A militia was historically composed of the citizenry in place of a national standing army. The founders distrusted what a standing army may become or be used for, and so this country harbored a citizen army for much of its history. In fact, official acts in the early United States republic were in place that mandated arms ownership for males in order to be called into the militia in case of foreign invasion, and also as a check to government usurpation.
Indeed, a class of the militia in 2019 is still designated as the people at large. For more detail on these points, read my linked letter above. Beyond the history of the militia, it really doesn't matter anyway. The opening clause of the amendment, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,” is independent of the second clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” This means that yes, the people at large have a right to keep and bear arms, and the government cannot infringe upon that right. It is not that hard to understand.
Within this same Twitter thread of Celsi’s, the person responded by calling Celsi a tyrant and accused her of wanting to regulate arms out of the hands of the citizenry. She responded to this accusation threatening, “So if I were you, I’d start being nice to me.”
If this threat is more tongue in cheek or legitimate, I don’t know. I’ll begrudgingly give her the benefit of the doubt. However, what an asinine, egregiously inappropriate comment by a lawmaker to a person. Had a right-wing politician said that statement to a constituent, CNN, Huffington Post, ABC, MSNBC and Rachel Maddow, The Young Turks, even ESPN would have all lost their collective minds.
Celsi must have been embarrassed by her comments, for she has since privatized her Twitter account. Which leads to a small tangent of thought, but was not President Trump court ordered that he cannot block or keep anyone out of his Twitter due to his status as a political leader? The same standard should be applied to her.
Does Celsi want to infringe upon gun rights? She claims to be a proponent of “common sense gun laws” according to her website. She also proudly touts that she is a candidate of distinction by the organization Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense (of which she is a member), an organization that calls to support federal legislation banning the nebulously-termed “assault rifles."
Celsi also decried a gun bill in the Iowa Senate this past spring that would give more strict adherence to the text of the Second Amendment, “The U.S. Constitution already has the Second Amendment, which protects the rights of people to own firearms and the responsibility to regulate guns is left to the states.” Celsi is simply wrong. The states are not left to regulate guns — that was never the intent of the amendment, and it is unbelievable a legislator would be so woefully ignorant of the second right of our Bill of Rights. Yes, Celsi does want to infringe upon the Second Amendment.
A word of advice to lawmakers, be honest about our actual rights and try not to threaten your constituents with removing their rights, even if it is tongue in cheek. That attitude is a terrible look.