Some recent events have made it an opportune time to take another look at the first two amendments to the Constitution.
Let’s begin with the First Amendment. The First Amendment to the Constitution covers a great deal in very few words. Specifically it states: “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.”
If there is one word that is the most significant among the 44 words that comprise the amendment it is the word “Congress.” The amendment is intended to prevent “Congress,” and by Congress meaning the government, from enacting laws that would violate an individual’s right to practice his or her religion or exercise his or her right to free speech, a free press, assembling peaceably, or petitioning the government.
Donald J. Trump is correct in his assertion that the team owners in the National Football League and the league itself do have the right to restrict or ban on field protests by team players similarly as the NFL exercises its right to restrict or control advertising on team uniforms and helmets.
Likewise, the league and the owners have the right NOT to place any such restrictions. If there has been anything improper done regarding the silent and non-violent protest by NFL players expressing their dissatisfaction with various police actions against black citizens, the impropriety is with Trump inserting himself, and thereby, a government entity, into the issue.
Trump, as unfamiliar as he is with the workings of government, should at least have realized that, as president of the United States, he represents the government. Although the executive branch is not Congress as specifically mentioned in the First Amendment, Trump should have realized that infusing himself as president into this issue by urging NFL owners to “fire the sons of bitches,” although maybe not technically unconstitutional even if highly un-presidential, was at the very least acting in a manner clearly counter to the founding fathers’ intent to prevent the federal government from limiting the rights included in the First Amendment.
Now let’s take a look at the Second Amendment to the Constitution, especially in light of the recent Mandalay Bay Resort massacre. Regardless of how this shooter in this latest massacre obtained his cache of weapons and ammunition, the point of this discussion is that the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which the National Rifle Association points to as the justification for unfettered access to guns (as well as the unfettered profits of the gun manufacturers who are the real constituency of the NRA) had almost nothing to do with individual gun ownership AND some controls, yes, I used that term, is both appropriate and not contrary to the Second Amendment.
In drafting the Constitution in 1787, the founding fathers had some level of concern that, as Commander-in-Chief of the army, the position of the presidency, as outlined in Article 2, had the potential of regressing into a monarchy or dictatorship. To address this potential, in crafting the Constitution and its amendments, the founding fathers wanted to avoid a professional standing army in favor of an army comprised of the citizens of the new nation. If you voted, you served; if you served, you voted.
It was their belief that an army consisting of citizens would prevent the use of the army to support any abuse of power. Accordingly, the Second Amendment to the Constitution was written: “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 Second Amendment was never designed or intended to provide uncontrolled access to weaponry to the individual. It wasn’t until the Heller Case that the Roberts’ Supreme Court expanded the amendment to include gun ownership for the specific purpose of protecting the home.
Throughout the Constitution, the term “persons” is used when speaking to individual rights. In the Second Amendment, the term “people” is used to indicate a collective intent such as an army, or “Militia.” As a matter of fact, the very use of the term “arms” as in “present arms,” “arms for hostages,” etc., is an indication that the founders were speaking in military terms.
It is about time that we use the Second Amendment in its proper context and not as a basis for unlimited access to guns by individuals. Maybe, just maybe, if we, as citizens across this nation, begin to take a much more responsible and respectful approach to gun ownership, we might be able to stem the tide of the all-too-often mass shootings.
If this point has not been made clearly enough, consider this: there is currently NRA-supported efforts to pass legislation to make it easier to obtain silencers. Silencers! What legitimate, lawful use of firearms needs a silencer?
Ya think maybe, just maybe, this effort is almost entirely for the purpose of increasing sales regardless of the resulting impact on gun deaths?
Republicans may want to heed the immortal words of their patron saint, Ronald Reagan, who said quite emphatically: “There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons. Assault rifles are not sporting weapons or needed for the defense of the home.”
For Republicans not to respect the immortal words of Ronald Reagan is tantamount to blasphemy. Protect your souls at the same time you can bring sensibility to gun ownership.