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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Obama, Biden and Guns

Everyone agrees that the Second Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees, "the right to bear arms.”  What many seem not to understand is that there has been no proposal by the Congress, the US President or by any State to amend the US Constitution by nullifying the Second Amendment.  According to almost every major newspaper in the country, Vice President Biden’s anticipated weapon proposals may include: strengthening background checks, limiting ammunition magazine sizes and perhaps a ban on assault weapons.  Therefore, one must ask; are these proposals an infringement on Second Amendment guarantees?  One might argue an absolutist point-of-view by simply pointing out the fact that the US Constitution clearly states, “Congress shall make no law,” followed by a Bill-of-Rights. Therefore, any law restricting guns or speech, for example, would make that legislative action illegal.  However, when one looks to our tradition of common law and the practice of legal precedence, this absolutist tradition is not a tradition at all.  In fact it has never been taken seriously by any of our courts or legislatures, when ruling on cases or making laws.  Regulation on our Bill-of-Rights have always been considered necessary when protecting the common good and bringing reason and direction to our rights themselves.

Concerning the First Amendment, in the court case Brandenburg V. Ohio it was concluded that speech is unprotected when “promoting immanent lawless action.”  We have concluded, as a people, inciting riots is not a good idea nor is it a right to protect.  Contemporary community standards also apply to the freedom of speech with respect to obscenity in such cases as Miller v. California.  Furthermore, personal threats, child pornography and speech owned by others all create barriers in our judicial system, concerning speech rights.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees, in cases of arrest, the  right to a speedy and a public trial.  It also guarantees the right to a jury composed of peers, being informed of crimes when arrested, and the right to have witnesses testify.  However, the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act of 1863 paid little mind to amendment number six when the common good (saving the Union) was in jeopardy.  What about “military combatants” held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?  American Citizens are in that federal prison today without being informed of crimes committed or granted trials, overlooked by peers or juries.

The Patriot Act was also enacted when the United States was under attack by Al Qaeda. No one on Capitol Hill was hollering about Fourth Amends guarantees, which is meant to guard against unreasonable searches and seizures.  As a matter of fact the NSA was directed, by the White House, to listen in on our phone calls, inquire on library books checked out, spy on our emails and even list the groups one might have affiliations with.

Could one argue that the practice of “immanent domain” is a violation of the Fifth Amendment?  The deprivation of property without the due process of the law is illegal under number five. This amendment did not stop the US Government from creating the National Park systems.  This was done in spite of Native American tribes living in those areas of course.  However, collectively we agreed on protecting the environment.

The Eighth Amendment guards against cruel and unusual punishment, even as thirty-three states, the US military and the federal government violate this amendment while keeping capital punishment on the books.  The US intelligence community and the White House also allow for rendition and torture and as a matter of US policy.

The Ninth Amendment is also regulated constantly, which guarantees rights not listed in the Bill-of-Rights (the enumeration clause). Concerning gay marriage, women’s access to abortion, universal health care, the right to employment or not to go hungry are constantly attacked by state and federal legislatures.

The Tenth Amendment guarantees state authority in a federalist system; however, this amendment is steamrolled by the US Government in matters of state legalized marijuana or when governors cannot recall National Guardsmen home from overseas deployments.  Even Cap-and-Trade limit states and their respective industries as well.  One could even argue the initial Interstate System violated this amendment.

So why would a country, which allows all these compromises, regulations and interpretations on our Bill-of-Rights, scream bloody-murder when the Vice President of the United States might propose background checks on people seeking to buy fire arms and implement ammo limitations.  The White House is not calling to repeal the Second Amendment, federal agents are not being directed to invade your house and take your guns and no one is restricting hunting. 

Quite simply it is astounding that in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook killings, before investigators were even finished counting the bodies or finished investigating the crime of murdered children, people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Sanity and several other Tea Party demagogues where only concerned with buying more guns, attacking the left-wing’s positions and threatening more violence.  Where was all the sympathy, or even a moment of silence, for the dead children in the American right-wing movement?

Nothing is absolute in this world not even the Second Amendment.  The possible White House proposals seem rather reasonable in a country, which glorifies (even worships) violence, guns and death.