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Scholars debate roles of constitution, government

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POSTED April 17, 2013 2:02 a.m.

The panel discussion between Mike Winther and Steven Routh was supposed to center on the Second Amendment.

But when the two constitutional scholars sat down Thursday night before the Manteca Tea Party Patriots, the conversation touched on a variety of topics – the intentions of the framers, British common law, the principals of limited government, the Defense of Marriage Act and the balance of power in the American government.

The Second Amendment – one of the hottest issues in America, and California in particular – was the last to come in the scholarly conversation between Winther, representing the Modesto-based Institute for Principal Studies.  Routh is the Chairman of the Department Political Science at Stanislaus State.

Token issues aside, the give-and-take between the two offered a unique level of insight that showed where both men differed in their ideas about policy and where both shared common ground.

Winther cited religion as one of the major contributing factors to the decisions made by the framers; Routh cited “The Enlightenment” and the work of John Locke in particular.

In Routh’s eyes, the Democratic and Republic Parties have never been so far apart on the issues that affect the American people on a day-to-day basis.

But Winther believes that there isn’t enough division between the modern parties.

“I think a lot of the difference that you see is grandstanding,” Winther said, adding that Republicans view things the same way today as Democrats did 12 years ago.

And when things finally did turn to the topic of gun control and the Second Amendment in particular, Routh talked about all aspects of the amendment as it is written and how it is commonly interpreted by scholars on both sides. He focused on key segments like “a well regulated militia” that he believes invokes military sentiment.

The rulings by the Supreme Court in the District of Columbia vs. Heller case and the McDonald vs. Chicago decision, he added, shows some concrete footing that the Federal government has no intention of trying to take away the firearms of the populace.

Winther added to the argument by pointing out that a provision in the constitution gives congress the power to pass an indefinite appropriation for the United States Navy while limiting a budget for the Army to only two years – proof that the founders were wary of the concept of a standing army controlled by the federal government at the time.

“I cannot envision any law that would take away the guns of the citizens of the United States,” Routh said. “They’re part and parcel with the American psyche.”

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