To the editor:

Some important points are not being presented in the current debate over banning of "assault" rifles.The Second Amendment is one of many checks and balances that our founding fathers felt compelled to include in our Constitution so as to prevent the rise of a totalitarian state. Protecting hunting or shooting sports is not the reasoning behind this amendment.

Noah Webster, a prominent Federalist, supported the Constitution, and in ratification debates stated, "The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed." Richard Henry Lee, a member of the first Senate, which passed the Bill of Rights, said, "To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike especially when young, how to use them." George Washington added, "Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence . . . "

Our government, in support of a "well-regulated militia," has historically supported programs designed to foster a high level of firearms competency in the general population. An example is the Army's office of civilian marksmanship. After demonstrating a sufficient level of skill, a law-abiding citizen can purchase an M1 Garand rifle from one of the government armories.

Today the checks and balances within our government are twisting and bending under continuous pressure from a variety of powerful movements. Most Americans would be surprised to learn the opinions they hold concerning their rights of free speech, religion, etc., reflect more the media's interpretation of the Constitution and not the intention of our founding fathers.

If the people can be convinced the Second Amendment is outdated or irrelevant in today's world, it becomes vulnerable to a variety of judicial and legislative assaults. The result could be the functional equivalent of deleting the Second Amendment from our critical list of checks and balances against tyranny.

If that happens, we better pray that we are forever led by angels, for it requires only one devil to enslave us.

R. Higgins