Many of my readers may not be aware that my old friend, Steve Merlo, published a novel a few years ago.

The title was "Oren's War," and it dealt with the people's rights to bear arms in this country. This is a subject that is really in the news lately because of some horrendous happenings that have occurred across the nation.

Steve would bring 10 to 15 pages of the manuscript by my home for me to read as he was writing the novel, and wanted my opinions as to the content up to that point. The prologue to the book was one of the best things he ever wrote. If you can imagine putting yourself alongside Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two of this nation's founding fathers, as they were about to put their signatures on, possibly, one the greatest documents ever conceived by mankind, then continue reading this column.

It is just riveting, astounding dialogue, to say the least, and should be cherished by all.

The following is an excerpt from Steve Merlo's Oren's War:

The clip-clop of horses hooves on loose cobblestone announced the arrival of the last expected delegate. Philadelphia was cold and wet in December 1791 and the old man in the carriage slowly climbed down and moved inside, removing his tricornered hat, wool scarf and heavy coat as he entered. The other men in attendance nodded their heads at him in silent greeting, but only one came forward to shake his hand.

"John! We were afraid you wouldn't make it on time."

"Only by the grace of God was I able, my friend. The ice, the snow. . ."

"We know. Most of us fought the same, but we're all here and ready now. We are ready, are we not?"

The distinguished man raised a questioning eyebrow at the new arrival, silently asking if he was not, then why was he here?

"Yes Thomas, I think so. I've read and reread George Mason's writings so many times I can relate them in my sleep. I'm yet to be convinced, Thomas. I'd enjoy a few minutes of your time before we handle this important event."

On in years, the silver-haired man had to sit down as his legs began to stiffen and ache from the arduous journey.

"John if you're still unsure, then we must talk. I'm all ears."

Thomas Jefferson draped an arm over his friend's shoulders and bent down near the older man's face so they could converse privately.

"Thomas, after all these years I'm still a puzzled man. Our young government is but a fledgling and our nation seems to be on the right path. Why then do you deem it necessary to change our rules?"

"We're not here to change the Constitution, John. We're here to enhance its noble ideals. The people need assurance their government remains true to its design. For the little we know, the future may bring things beyond our comprehension. We have to take steps guaranteeing our ideas don't change with the passage of time. The ideals we've already written into the Supreme Law are timeless by their nature and must never be altered. Surely you concur!"

"I do! Unfalteringly I do! But why word this 'Bill of Rights,' as you have designed it, so strongly? That alone is the source of my confusion."

"John, John, John! Remember, America is the land of free men. What we do today will simply put that fact into words."

"But 10 changes! Isn't that excessive and somewhat dangerous? And what's this about uncontrolled 'free' speech? And guns? Can they not be the instrument of our downfall? Our government must have controls, yes, but its representatives might stand at the whipping-post for their honest mistakes. We cannot allow that to happen. We will make mistakes, won't we, Thomas?"

"Yes we will. But aren't you putting the cart before the horse? Andrew Hamilton and the Federalist Papers have blinded you with their rhetoric. The People don't want a government that directs them with its power. They want to direct the government with their own, lest it become more powerful than they. The People have one basic tenet. . . let the United States be self governed. They cannot achieve this end without government-binding rules guaranteeing that position."

"It's a grand idea, but who amongst us would forget the importance of our elected trusts? We're here as emissaries of those who have elected us. There are no criminals amongst us!"

"Therein lies the problem, John. Someday, there may be! Our First Amendment merely authorizes public dissent. We're the only nation in the world to offer this to its populace. With it, the People can be fore-warned of governmental wrongdoing. I see a time when our nation is so large the government may become too sovereign. It must be contained, or all we've accomplished will be for naught!"

"And the guns? What about the guns, Thomas? Why is so necessary to arm the people? Isn't the presence of our military enough?'

"And live under martial law?! No! The Second allows the people to protect themselves from that occurrence. Without the Second Amendment, one cannot guarantee the First or any of the others. That's the premise, if we're to tether this strange beast we've created.

"I'd say you and George Mason are the strange beasts, Thomas. Your ideas seem so primitive. We're civilized men for God's sake! What you're saying is insulting to sane men everywhere."

"Ho-ho, my good friend. Let's hope it insults the King of England first! But I do understand your concerns, John, yet we must insure the basic rights we've outlined in the Constitution. We must gurantee those rights in writing and put them in a proper location where they'll never be misinterpreted. I tell you, they're more important than either of us will know in our lifetimes. I agree none of us would stoop to breaking the law, but we must be ready should someone dishonorable attempt to do so later in history. Freedom depends on our concerns for Liberty."

"I know that! I'm just afraid. I'm an old man, but I want this country and its ideals to survive into something meaningful for all mankind. I hope you're right, Thomas."

"Then you'll sign?"

"My constituents have bade me to do so. Yes, Thomas, I will sign. But I do so with reservation."

"It's the correct path, John, I assure you. Come, let's join the others. They wait impatiently for us."

The two patriots joined the other men for the historical signing where their flourished signatures sealed the authorization to adopt and ratify the Bill of Rights. At long last, the task of creating America's superstructure was completed. The United States of America, land of free men, with liberty and justice for all, was truly born and sent on its way through history.

Ken Barnes is a record setting shooter and longtime outdoorsman from Kern County. Email him at with comments or column ideas.

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