Freedom! Don’t take away my freedom! I have my rights! It’s in the Constitution! Second Amendment! These are the cries of members of the gun establishment expressing their National Rifle Association-instilled fears that any commonsense gun safety measures, such as universal mandatory background checks as a requirement to purchase a gun, will infringe on their Constitutional right to carry a gun without any restrictions or safeguards whatsoever.
Of course the Second Amendment to the Constitution does not offer such unrestricted freedoms. As anyone who has actually read both the amendment and its history should know, the amendment was created to prevent the position of president as commander in chief of the military from using a standing professional army from taking over the new nation dictatorially. To protect against this possibility, the founding fathers wanted the military to comprise citizens. If you voted, you served; likewise, if you served, you voted. The Second Amendment was worded to effect this protection: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right to bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Since the military was to be comprised of its citizens, these citizens needed access to their muskets.
Accordingly, the Second Amendment to the Constitution was neither designed nor intended to provide either unregulated or unlimited access to gun ownership by individuals. It wasn’t until 2008 in the Heller case that the Supreme Court went against precedent to expand the Second Amendment to include individual gun ownership, but even Justice Scalia, in his majority opinion, allowed for the element of regulation.
Regardless of whether there is any sound basis for these cries of “Constitutional rights”, the reality is that when it comes to gun control, Constitutional rights are at the very top of the cry list. These Constitutional cries are not limited to NRA members. They are equally uttered by the legislators, at both the federal and state levels, who cater to this voting bloc for fear of being “primaried” by the extreme right.
Although the Constitution of the United States was not, as some would have you believe, handed down on Mt. Sinai along with the Ten Commandments, it is the basis of our government. How disturbing, then, when our politicians who espoused the importance of constitutionality when it comes to placating the NRA, find it so easy to disregard other amendments to suit their political needs.
Case in point: the 14th Amendment and the issue of citizenship, specifically birth right citizenship or, as Jeb Bush calls them, “anchor babies”. The issue necessitating the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was the need to ensure the Constitutional rights of the newly freed slaves, referred to at that time as “freedmen”, in the Southern states in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Amendment’s opening section states quite clearly that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction, thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside”. The Amendment goes on to state that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” which would include such Constitutional privileges as freedom of speech, press, petition, and assembly. Further, “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.
Is it possible for anyone to miss the hypocrisy in the Republican stance on guns and the Second Amendment as compared to their stance on ignoring the 14th Amendment when it comes to the issue of birth right citizenship and the children born in the United States to parents who are undocumented immigrants? Illegal immigration is an issue that must be dealt with and requires a two-pronged approach that would include both enforcement with deportation and a pathway to citizenship for those who earn it. Anyone who believes otherwise is not recognizing the reality and the challenges of deporting upwards of 11 million such undocumented immigrants. Moreover, any solution must include penalties for those citizens who hire undocumented immigrants which will serve as a deterrent and stem the tide of illegal immigration.
Back to hypocrisy. According to Article III of the Constitution, “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court…” Now I, myself, have found certain rulings by the Supreme Court to be highly questionable. The Heller Case, as previously mentioned, in which the Court ignored all previous precedent to extend the Second Amendment to ownership of handguns I found problematic. Just as problematic was the Citizens United case in which the Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as individual citizens even though corporations obviously do not face the same levels of personal liability as do citizens. It is for that very reason that individuals incorporate in the first place. Also highly problematic was the Courts gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 making it more difficult to protect a citizen’s right to vote, the foundation of our democracy.
Regardless of one’s feelings about these individual decisions, hypocrisy only comes into play when you interpret some Constitutional Amendments or Supreme Court decisions as cut in stone, such as the Second Amendment, and others, specifically the 14th Amendment which is one of our most important Constitutional Amendments since it protects the Constitutional rights of citizens from being taken away by the individual states, are looked upon as nothing more than a flavor of the day which can be conveniently ignored when politically expedient. You can easily add the 16th Amendment, which gave Congress the “power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived”, to this latter category.
The point: When it comes to political hypocrisy, there is no better example than “cherry picking” the Constitution.