Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may need to go back to civics class. In the midst of a statement about gun control on Wednesday, Clinton mixed up two of America’s founding documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Clinton dropped this nugget on NBC Universal’s “Steve Harvey” show:
We’ve got to say to the gun lobby, “you know what, there is a constitutional right for people to own guns, but there’s also a constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness [absolutely] that enables us to have a safe country, where we are able to protect our children and others from this senseless gun violence.”
The Constitution itself explicitly guarantees no such rights. Via the Second Amendment, it does spell out the right to “keep and bear arms,” but not the right to life. Indeed, the Constitution is not primarily about rights, but about defining the limits of the federal government’s power. The Bill of Rights, hotly debated at the time, explicitly states that the enumerated rights in the Constitution are not meant to “deny or disparage others retained by the people,” among which the right to life is foremost.
Many founders opposed the Bill of Rights because they feared it might transform the nature of the Constitution from a government-constraining document into a rights-proposing document. Even the Bill of Rights, however, protects the rights of the people by explicitly prohibiting the federal government from constraining them. For example, it preserves the innate right to freedom of religion by saying, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, which charged that King George III and parliament had abrogated rights “endowed by their Creator.” The Constitution was written to ensure the new federal government would not infringe upon those rights as Britain had.
The “progressive” movement has a long history of using the language of rights to expand the size and scope of the federal government. Don’t let Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric fool you — the Constitution is about protecting citizens from government, not government from the citizenry.
Here’s the video in context (“Constitutional Right” comes around 2:20):
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 24, 2016