by Robert Maynard and Alex Darr
The Federalist Society now has a chapter at the Vermont Law School and one of their first endeavors was to bring a discussion on the Second Amendment there. The Federalist Society is one of the best known groups dedicated to promoting an originalist approach to interpreting the U.S. Constitution. The focus of an originalist approach to constitutional interpretation is to interpret the document as it was intended to by the original founders. Another term for this approach is “original intent”. This approach is not popular in our modern age as the primary focus of our founders was to limit the proper role of government. The following phrase was attributed to George Washington and sums up how many of the founders viewed government:”Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” Irresponsible action was allowing the government to take on a role beyond what it was intended to do: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, …” Government was to be limited in its role to securing our rights. Today, it is fashionable in the interpretation of the constitution to find a way to justify an expanded role for government. Origininalists believe that this approach flies in the face of the intent and purposes with which the constitution was drafted in the first place.
Professor Lund from George Mason Law School represented the originalist position in the discussion, while Professor Teachout of Vermont Law School represented the popular modern perspective.