The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 4, 1995, the gentleman from New York [Mr. Nadler] is recognized for 45 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.
Mr. NADLER. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in an effort to shed light on a problem on nearly everyone's mind these days--the problem of terrorism--the problem of a relatively small number of violent lawbreakers who have set out to undermine our democratic way of life and seek either to blackmail the government through violence or the threat of violence to comply with their demands, or to overthrow the government entirely.
What these misguided zealots are attempting to do is to create a climate of fear so great that Americans can't even drop off their children at day care in the morning without having to worry if it will be the last time they will ever see them. This climate of violence and fear is sometimes fostered by people who organize or join so-called militias and say they are acting in the name of patriotism. They invoke our Founding Fathers to defend heinous acts of senseless violence, or to advocate such violence.
How ironic! How tragic!
In Hamilton, MT, U.S. District Court Judge Jeff Langton received the following letter:
We are prepared . . . to defend with our life, our Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We number in the thousands in your area and everywhere else. . . . How many of your agents will be sent home in body bags before you hear the pleas of the people? Proceed at your own peril.
It was signed by the `North American Militia.'
In April of this year, in eastern Montana, approximately 15 men, calling themselves `freemen,' placed million-dollar bounties on a county judge, a sheriff, a county attorney and on other local officials who they felt were infringing on their rights.
While these particular threats have not yet resulted in violent terrorist acts, they well illustrate the dangers that now confront law-abiding Americans.
We must not give in to the terrorists. We need to enforce the laws we have, and to enact whatever legal authority we need to deal with this domestic terrorist threat. But we must also be ever vigilant not to destroy the very freedoms we are attempting to protect. If we do that, then America loses and the terrorists win.
We have seen some attempts here in Congress to deal with both domestic and international terrorism. Many of these initiatives will bring much needed and appropriate relief. Some threaten the rights of law-abiding citizens. We must be careful not to use a scatter-shot approach, because, as every hunter knows, scatter-shot often strikes innocent bystanders along with, or even instead of, the intended target.
Some proposals, already presented to the Judiciary Committee, would violate such fundamental and sacred protections of our liberties as: the right to a fair and public trial; the right to confront witnesses; the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; and the right to require that government prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
These rights set our Nation apart. They safeguard our freedom. We can defend our families, our communities, and our laws without violating the Constitution, without tearing down the bulwarks of our liberties, and without trampling on the rights of the accused.
I have introduced H.R. 1544, the Domestic Insurgency Act of 1995, which would give our law enforcement officers the legal authority they need to crack down on one major aspect of domestic terrorism--the private armies or militias that have recently proliferated across our land.
This narrowly focused bill would prohibit participating knowingly in private paramilitary activities is it can be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of twelve Americans that the individual intended to use violence against the United States or any State or for any other illegal purpose.
This bill does not limit the right of free speech or of free assembly or association. People would still be free to express any ideas they choose, no matter how offensive others might find them. It would in no way threaten legal activities such as the Boy Scouts, rod and gun clubs, of people participating in nonviolent citizen activist efforts. It would
not affect nonviolent civil disobedience. It would not threaten the right to associate freely with like-minded people. It would penalize only those who have in their hearts the desire to overthrow our legally constituted, democratically elected government and who are bent on taking violent action to do so and who assemble arms and weaponry and practice military techniques for the purpose of doing so. Only the terrorists have any reason to fear this bill.
There are those who do not understand, or who deliberately will not understand, that this bill does not violate the Constitution in any way. They use self-serving, so-called patriotic arguments to justify their opposition.
While vigorous debate is a healthy and necessary part of the democratic process, invoking our Founding Fathers to rationalize terrorism does not promote productive discourse. I want my colleagues and the American people to hear what some have argued.
One American writes: `particularly in jeopardy seem to be habeas corpus, the First, Second and Fourth Amendments and restraints on the Executive Branch.'
Another writes on the Internet, `This is an attempt to undermine the Second Amendment by outlawing the concept of `citizen militia man.'
Still a third writes,
This final act of unsurpation should be considered by all who love their country, not government, as the Final Straw, and they should prepare themselves for the imposition of a police state to complete the task for denial of our rights granted by G-d. `It is their right, it is their duty to throw off that government' and it appears that, should this bill be passed, duty calls!
A fax sent to my office reads as follows,
Apparently you have never read the Constitution, if you had, you would know that your Bill is not only illegal but treasonous as well. You cannot undo what is a constitutional right (the Second Amendment), except by repeal of the Constitution itself through a Constitutional Convention! How the hell did you get in office as ignorant as you are?
A fair question. Why don't we read the second amendment together?
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
What did the people who wrote the Constitution mean by `a well-regulated Militia'?
Fortunately, the people who wrote these words provided a written explanation for future generations in the Federalist Papers.
In Federalist No. 29, Alexander Hamilton makes clear, `that the plan of the [Constitutional] Convention [which adopted the Second Amendment] proposed to empower the Union `to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.'
Hamilton further explains that, `[i]f a well-regulated militia be the most natural defense of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security,'--in other words Congress, to which the Constitution grants the power to raise armies.
Therefore, Hamilton points out, `[t]he power of regulating the militia, and of commanding its services in times of insurrection and invasion are natural incidents to the duties of superintending the common defence, and of watching over the internal peace of the Confederacy.'
So, clearly, just because a private group of people who arm themselves with the intent to take violent action against our Government or its citizens call themselves a militia, does not make them part of the well-regulated militia referred to in the second amendment. The authors of the Constitution did not see it that way and neither has the Supreme Court.
The Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and Supreme Court precedent all make crystal clear that a well-regulated militia means the auxiliary armed forces of the States that can be called into national service by the President--what we today call the National Guard.
Those who attempt to cloak acts of terrorism or sedition as rights under the mantle of the second amendment ought to reread these crucial passages.
We should all think about what kind of country we want to live in. To be truly patriotic means recognizing our responsibilities to uphold the democratic principles which make this the freest nation on Earth. It is important to remember that the opening words of the Constitution are `We the People' not `I the People.' Being a citizen in a democracy means that you can't organize your own private army because you disagree with the actions of the democratically elected government. If you settle political differences with bullets instead of ballots, you don't live in a democracy, you live in Beruit or Bosnia. This is America, and I don't think we want that to happen here.
We have a responsibility--indeed, in a democracy we have a patriotic duty--to speak out against what we believe to be wrong, against that with which we do not agree, and about that which we want to change. Peacefully, lawfully, democratically, and with respect for the rights and liberties of those with whom we disagree--that's the American way.