Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How about some first amendment remedies?

A lot of people here in Britain find the obsession among some sections of the US electorate with the 'second amendment' and the right to bear arms a little, well, creepy. Passed in a time of revolution where the population needed to mount an armed defense against a colonial ruler things moved on and it's usefulness has clearly expired.

I'm sure it was right and proper at the time it was passed, but since then it has rarely been used for the purpose it was designed for, ie law abiding citizens protecting themselves from an armed state. The immediate example that springs to mind is the Black Panthers who used the amendment to good effect - so the law was changed and the Party was gunned down or jailed.

The wording of the amendment that "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", also seems to be ignored. So the amendment becomes about individuals with MI6s on their living room walls which seems a million miles away from the community collectively organising a well regulated militia. The order of the day is always zero regulation not collective responsibility.

More than that though, while some gun loving rhetoric has been abhorrent, including high profile Tea Partier Sharon Angle consistently referring to 'second amendment methods' if they failed at the ballot box, I do kind of wonder how some amendments have gained a halo of pseudo-religious fervor and others seem, frankly, abandoned and discarded.

How about the first amendment "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."

I can't be the only person to note that many of those who are zealots for amendment number two seem less keen on the freedom to practice the Islamic faith, and who rarely seem to have cared about the right to peaceably assemble if the cause was not theirs.

How about number four"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

How does that fit with the current airport security regime? Or the patriot act more generally?

Those who love the second amendment might like to give some thought to Bradley Manning and amendment number six which reads "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

Or perhaps they don't really care about the constitution - maybe they just like shooting their guns and pretending God told them that was a worth while hobby.

While it is too early to tell whether it will be good or yet more ill that comes out of the
Arizona shooting, what is clear is that those gung ho for the gun regard some amendments as more equal than others.

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