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Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT): Credentialed, Not Educated

Despite his law degree, an MSNBC appearance revealed him ignorant of two elements of the Constitution.

Clayton E. Cramer


May 11, 2013 - 12:00 am
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Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) is exposing his ignorance of American history for all to see.

On MSNBC, he recently called laws passed in Alabama and Kansas that sought to prevent enforcement of any new federal gun control laws “laughable.”  (Other states are preparing to pass similar laws.) While there are certainly legitimate questions as to how far states may go in this area, there is nothing laughable about the concept of state nullification: it is a fundamental part of U.S. history and constitutional law.

It started with the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, adopted by the legislatures of those two states during 1798 and 1799 in opposition to the newly passed Alien and Sedition Acts. Congress asserted authority to prosecute false and demeaning statements about members of the government; proponents of the two resolutions argued that these laws exceeded federal authority. In particular, the Sedition Act, the Virginia legislature argued, violated the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of the press and of speech. Kentucky’s legislature held:

That the several states who formed [the Constitution], being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a nullification, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under colour of that instrument, is the rightful remedy …

In later times, nullification came up again as free states resisted the Dred Scott (1857) decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, passing personal liberty laws that sought to prevent runaway slaves (and those merely accused of being runaway slaves) from being dragged back into slavery, often on less than persuasive evidence.

More recently, we have decisions such as New York v. U.S. (1992) and Printz v. U.S. (1997) that — based on the Tenth Amendment – found that there were limits on the authority of Congress to order state and local governments to enforce federal laws. These decisions do not hold that states may prohibit federal officials from enforcing such laws, but they at least recognize that the national government has substantial limits to its powers.

To argue that state governments have authority to prohibit federal law enforcement agencies from enforcing the law is a stretch, but it isn’t laughable: it’s a serious question as to whether the laws being discussed qualify as constitutional or not.

Senator Murphy is on even less solid ground concerning the purpose of the Second Amendment. Said Murphy:

And this idea that the Second Amendment was put in there in order to allow citizens to fight their government is insane.


Take a look at what the men who wrote the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights had just done: they had fought their own government, kicking the British out at gunpoint. You can get a taste of some of the attitude these Americans had by reading the New Hampshire Constitution of 1784, Article X:

The doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

Other members of the founding generation clearly recognized that armed resistance was the last resort against tyranny, such as Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 28, who argued that the state governments would provide the unifying force required to defend against a tyrannical national government. Without this?

The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair.

Hamilton clearly saw that this was not as good as state governments organizing this resistance, but the right to armed rebellion was nonetheless legitimate.

Similarly, James Madison — principal author of the Bill of Rights, Senator Murphy — discussed in Federalist 46 why the new national government was not quite the tyrannical danger that some opponents claimed, pointing out that the government could simply not have a large enough regular army to suppress rebellion because they would be greatly outnumbered by the state militias (at this time, effectively every white adult man):

It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it.

James Madison: another crazed NRA member, I suppose.

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All Comments   (8)
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Unfortunately, for much of the citizenry, the shame of showing ignorance is vistigal. The low information voters are not ashamed of being so, but wear it as a badge of belonging, and there are learned but ambitious men such as the Senator who play to their passion.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
At one time a college degree meant one was educated in the classical sense, meaning one had a broadly based education. Today a degree, especially an advanced or specialty degree (like a law degree), simply means one is a narrowly trained specialist and the higher the degree the more narrow the focus. So, just having a degree doesn't make them either broadly knowledgeable, wise or even smart, it just means they are well trained and good at taking tests.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I also agree with Marc Malone. I give Murphy the benefit of the doubt that he couldn't possibly be that ignorant of the Constitution and American history.

He is obviously campaigning for the next election cycle he must face, and betting that more voters than not, in Connecticut, think that giving up Constitutional rights and living in an authoritarian state, will ensure their personal safety. Murphy doesn't care about the Constitution or history; he cares about getting re-elected, or being elected to another office.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is an excellent article, but I agree with Marc Malone this is not ignorance on display, but malice aforethought. He wants to accrue power, and mow down anything that might get in the way. Call it by it's right name, evil. Those who would have us defenseless are not acting in our best interest but their own.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Really great column, thanks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Does Senator Murphy consider those states and local governments who have chosen to ignore Federal Immigration Law laughable? Or does he believe those governments that have established "Sanctuary Cities" for illegal immigrants are merely expressing their rights as sovereign states/cities to ignore federal laws that "violate" the U.S. Constitution?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is a surprise?

What about the socalled republican members of Congress and Senate, the legislature, law-making body of the nation? Or Judiciary? Oaths to uphold and defend? THE FUNDAMENTALl Document of title for these United States of We The People? The Bill of Rights of that fundamental, constitution, contains in English plain enough for any literate, or legally trained person, not only Amendment X but the one immediately preceding, Amendment IX. Not important?

Obama the present Chief Executive as reputed constitutional scholar who campaigned in "all 57 States" of these United States, certainly knows ONE Constitutional, ie lawful, qualification for public office as POTUS as SPECIFICALLY different from those for Congressman, Senator, and Judiciary. Why else Sealing from public, i.e. citizens' review, of documents as first act on taking the chair of Chief Executive?

Article II and that pesky "No person except a NATURAL BORN CITIZEN, OR a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be elligible to the Office of President"(emphasis added)
Obama also compares himself, when not as the Saviour of the Nation, to Abraham Lncoln.

Hasn't all this "for the good of the People" developed a cold civil war pitting citizen against citizen in all number of ways. To the general detriment of cohesiveness and national identity as American with a capital A? AND the continuiing growth of Central/Federal government. How many times by fiat, ie. Executive Order?

"We must all hang together or assuredly we SHALL ALL hang separately".

There is a group of people now dismissed de haut en bas from media pundits called Low Information Voters.

As damaging as they are to the Fundamental Character of this Constitutional Republic of the United States, how much more damaging are these same persons in Congress, Senate, Judiciary And Executive of the nation?

Keep your eyes open. You/We ain't seen nothing yet in their intention to "fundamentally transform" the nation of We The People, this hitherto Constitutional Republic of the United States.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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