Playing Chicken with the Constitution: The NRA's Wayne LaPierre Proposes Using the Threat of a Constitutional Convention to Pressure Congress to Repeal the Anti-Free Speech Provisions in the McCain-Feingold Law

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The clear language of the Constitution is often violated and circumvented by elected and appointed officials entrusted to honor and defend it. However, so long as the Constitution is kept intact as the highest law of the land, there is still realistic hope that the federal government will begin operating within its strictures once again. All that is necessary is for an aroused and organized citizenry to apply informed pressure on their elected officials--particularly their congressmen--to do what they promised they would do when they took their oath of office.

Congress could repeal harmful legislation such as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, more commonly known as McCain-Feingold, which infringes upon our constitutionally protected right to free speech. Congress could also rein in activist federal judges by limiting their jurisdiction to hear certain types of eases, based on a little-known, but vitally important, power granted to it in Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution. Congress could even, when necessary, impeach federal judges--and rogue presidents too, for that matter.

But what if the Constitution were radically changed? What if the federal government, instead of being barred from exercising powers not delegated to it, were instead empowered to do anything not expressly prohibited? What if much or all of the federal government's existing body of unconstitutional statutes were suddenly made constitutional--not by revising or repealing the statutes through corrective legislation but by radically amending the Constitution? What if the Second Amendment were weakened or eliminated? What if the brilliant system of checks and balances, which the Founding Fathers so carefully crafted into the Constitution, were scrapped, ostensibly to make government more efficient? What then?

If, God forbid, we lose our Constitution through radical amendment, there would be very little hope of preserving our threatened liberties. Without the Constitution, the American people, once awakened, would no longer have a solid foundation to go back to (through their congressmen) to restore good government. It is therefore imperative that the Constitution be preserved at all costs.

On March 10, the Virginia Legislature approved a resolution that withdrew and nullified its previous applications to Congress to call a constitutional convention (con-con) to amend the U.S. Constitution. Those legislators passed this resolution because constituents had brought to their attention the fact that a con-con cannot be limited to considering a particular amendment or amendments. It could, in fact, propose any number of amendments on any number of subjects; it could even propose replacing the present U.S. Constitution with an entirely new document. They did not want to chance a convention being called possessing that amount of power and so withdrew their previous applications.

On January 23, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association, addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where he acknowledged that a con-con was "a means of last resort more powerful than the Congress and Courts put together." Yet, instead of rejecting this approach for amending the Constitution--as did the Virginia Legislature less than two months later--he advocated using the threat of a con-con to pressure Congress into eliminating time anti-free speech provisions in the McCain-Feingold Jaw. In essence, he recommended playing a dangerous game of chicken, with the participants being the state legislatures on one hand and the Congress on the other, and with time stakes being not just McCain-Feingold but the U.S. Constitution.

Article V

In his CPAC speech, LaPierre acknowledged that the con-con approach to amending the Constitution "hasn't been used in 215 years"--that is, since the Constitution was ratified. "It's buried in the Constitution's Article V, which authorizes the people to convene a Constitutional Convention and seize power once again. …