I am troubled by the lack of knowledge many Americans seem to have for the document that contributes most to our governance, the Constitution of the United States of America.
People need to understand the Constitution was not designed around party politics although it has certainly become a tool of partisanship today. The Constitution is primarily organizational and structural. It plainly describes how the federal government is established and what its powers and limitations are. The Constitution, fairly brief considering its importance, took months of argument, compromise and hard work before ratification. It wasn’t done carelessly, and it should not be abused, ignored or misunderstood by those whom it protects.
We owe the Founders to be informed. Otherwise, political shenanigans take place, the unscrupulous take advantage, and rights become endangered. The Founders understood this; you should too.
There are 27 amendments to the Constitution. The first ten, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, is concerned with individual rights that may not be trampled on by government asserting too much power or control over a person’s life. The Bill of Rights was born in a time when individual rights were beginning to challenge the traditional powers of royalty, large landowners, and churches.
The wording of the Bill of Rights is precise to prevent ambiguity. These need to be examined as written.
Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
You understand why these rights were identified first. Freedom of religion was/is paramount in America and was crucial in its establishment. You can worship as you wish or not at all, but there can be no influences such as government in religious practices. Period.
Freedom of speech can not be abridged. You can say what you want or write what you want for publication. That doesn’t mean you can slander or libel or cause financial harm with false words.
You can assemble if you wish to organize for some purpose or cause, but you may have to have a permit. You should be peaceable and responsible in organizing. The right to assemble shouldn’t interfere with other people’s rights.
If we allow the commies to organize, we must also allow the fascists. No group has a greater right to organize than another. The determining factor is who is perceived as right by those so compelled by the assembly’s presentation.
You can call attention to your argument, cause or concerns, but you can not break windows, make threats, or attack another person without expecting legal retribution. The right ends when civil law is broken.
You can petition the government if you are troubled by its behavior. You may write letters or editorials or raise petitions to it and not fear reprisal.
Got it? All the above applies to everyone despite background, race, income, social position, political affiliation or purpose. The left has no more rights in regard to the First Amendment than does the right. You may hear things to the contrary. For example, some on the left seem to believe they have a greater right to the amendment than others because they are politically correct in all things. They are wrong. Ignore them. (That’s me editorializing.)
Amendment 2: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The main clause in the amendment is “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The key phrase within the cause is “to keep.” It addresses ownership, and it is quite clear.
The Second Amendment is there for citizens’ protection against potential tyranny. The founders recognized any government can betray its citizens through a misuse of power. We have the right to resist through our own arms if such a situation becomes so severe individual rights become endangered. It has little to do with anything else.
At Lexington, the British army was met by a handful of determined militia. The men were self-armed and tyranny was met by something of an equality of arms if not numbers. You get the point.
The Second Amendment empowers resistance in the hands of those trampled. It is a very effective check of governmental power.
That is why the left hates it so, but the Second Amendment has been defended by the Supreme Court time and again for the reason stated above.
I will look at other amendments in forthcoming columns. If you disagree with my points, practice your First Amendment.
Larry W. Anderson is a retired educator.