2017-07-18 / Opinion

The Bill of Rights

BY DALE LANDRITH SR.

On July 4th we celebrated Independence Day. This holiday represents the concepts enumerated in the Declaration of Independence of basic freedoms. That Declaration emphatically states that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” When the Constitution of our country was adopted these “unalienable rights” were not specifically included. Freedom loving people demanded that they be a part of our Constitution. Thus, through a process of amendments, ten items were added to ensure these freedoms and ratified on December 15, 1791. The first ten amendments to the Constitution became known as The Bill of Rights.

The First Amendment includes provisions that there shall be no dictated national religion and that there shall not be any restrictions on the exercise of religious beliefs. This amendment follows with guaranteeing the right of free speech and a free press. Our country today faces untold instances of expressions of ugly and hurtful speech. We see outlandish examples of and seemingly abuses of these freedoms in today’s society. Does this mean that we should now pass laws that limit religion or speech? Absolutely not! Any law limiting others who seemingly abuse these can then be used to limit our right to express our views. There are many times when our inner self would say, “shut them up” and then we realize that we would not want to be “shut up.”

The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right against “unreasonable search and seizures.” We see obviously guilty criminals set free as a result of authorities violating this freedom and sometimes become very angry at some not being held accountable for their deeds. Should the restrictions on “search and seizure” be changed so that the obvious guilty not be set free? Absolutely not! There are already government abuses of this freedom and they must stop. Swat team tactics for political purposes have recently been observed in Wisconsin. Such government conduct threatens the freedoms of the Fourth Amendment in a major way.

The Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” There are evidences of government overreach such as “civil forfeiture laws” currently in use that abuse the Fifth Amendment and should be deemed unconstitutional. This amendment guards against actions that characterize a police state. We are protected against a government going rogue.

Space does not permit a review of all ten of The Bill of Rights. However, even with a minority of people or government taking advantage of these freedoms and abusing their intent, the general populous is better served by having these protections. This same type of protection is embedded in another amendment.

The Second Amendment provides that, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” In virtually every incidence of gun violence there is a cry to limit firearms, ammunition, and/or their accessories and infringe on this Second Amendment guarantee. When surveyed the American people do not want the Second Amendment violated. Gun owners and non-gun owners do not want restrictions on their ability to possess firearms.

While there is disagreement on certain restrictions Americans agree that firearm possession is part of American culture.

The Second Amendment is just as important to American freedom as are the other amendments. There are people who abuse and misuse firearms and this can have tragic consequences. However, there are people who abuse and misuse the freedoms from the other nine amendments in The Bill of Rights. Misuse of free speech or the free press can also kill, injure, and cause lasting harm. We need to be conscious of protecting all the freedoms that our Constitution guarantees including the Second Amendment. The freedoms expressed in The Bill of Rights are there to protect Americans, and while there are certainly abuses, they are the basis of who we are as the greatest nation to ever exist.

Another View is written on a rotating basis by a member of a group of Midcoast citizens that meet to discuss issues they think are of public interest.

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