What Makes the Second Amendment Sacred?

by Penni L Smith on February 22, 2013

HandgunThe Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, was added to make sure that the government being created would not abuse its powers, and that basic human rights would be honored in this new nation. In the 220 years since the Constitution was adopted, the courts have been sorting out how to apply these rules to an ever-changing world. What they have found is that the rights are not without restriction. Sometimes, the Constitution seems to be set aside too easily.

In the years following 9/11, we’ve seen some incredible breaches of Constitutional guarantees. We had endless incarceration without charges being filed, a trial being held, or an opportunity for bail being provided, in violations of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth amendments. We’ve had torture done under U.S. authority–another Constitutional violation. (And always, always, always wrong no matter the ends.)

These have been justified, of course. We’ve called some of those affected “prisoners of war” and declared them not subject to those guaranteed rights. Where citizens were clearly involved, such as in secret surveillance, that was justified by the need to fight terrorism. Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War is cited as a precedent. There is precedent, however, for all manner of things we should not accept. The Japanese internment during World War II was considered justified at the time.

Anwar al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen the CIA was allowed to target for assassination, which they successfully accomplished in September 2011. This was justified as a military operation against a person who had taken up arms against the country. Maybe that’s reasonable. In the Civil War, tens of thousands of U.S. citizens were killed for that very reason. They were not put on trial first. Then again, they were actually taking up arms. Do we want the president to be able to approve the killing of a citizen without any court review of evidence when the person has not yet actually engaged in an attack?

You may think these exceptions to the rights guaranteed in the Constitution are valid and justified, or are absolutely wrong, or fall somewhere in between. It is clear, however, that the limiting of rights has been justified because of the difficult challenges of living in this modern world where we face threats never envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

Why, then, does the NRA and its supporters treat the Second Amendment as sacrosanct? Why is it okay to set aside several amendments to deal with current threats, but not okay to ban assault rifles or limit gun magazine size because of the sacred Second amendment? Though the Supreme Court has ruled both that individuals can have firearms and that restrictions are permissible, people start hollering whenever any type of control is suggested.

Just as those who wrote the Constitution could not have imagined a U.S. citizen living across the ocean as able to attack us, neither could they envision the arms we have access to today, or the carnage that would enable. If we can reasonably curtail the reach of other rights, let’s reasonably curtail reach of the Second amendment. It’s not more sacred than the others.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: