What is a "strict Constitutionalist?" Those words get bandied about frequently, but does anyone actually give any thought to what it means, and more specifically, to who might be saying it and why?
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are often touted as the main difference between us, meaning the United States, and almost everyone else. OK, I'll buy most of that, although we aren't the only democracy in the world, and perhaps not even the most democratic. Personally, I wish we had a parliamentary system, as it allows more participation from smaller but significant groups. I digress, back to the Constitution.
The Second Amendment is in the news a great deal under the banner of "gun control." I'm not sure how I feel about a lot of the discussion, but I do have a couple of strong opinions on it. Number one is that clearly the Constitution guarantees the average American citizen to own guns, "the right to bear arms." I also have no doubt the government has the right to regulate that guarantee in many ways, "the language 'a well-regulated Militia' allows that," and let's face it, they regulate each and every other Amendment of the Constitution.
Now here is where that "strict Constitutionalism" comes into play. The most fervent supporters of gun ownership say there is no allowance whatsoever built into the Second Amendment. There is no way the government can restrict anything relative to the right to bear arms. I guess they can't read, refuse to accept or just don't understand the words "a well regulated Militia." But let's see about the rest of that document, and where do these "strict Constitutionalists" stand on it.
Many of the most rabid Second Amendment supporters are also staunch "law and order" types. I doubt there are many police officers in favor of most gun control. There are some, but not a lot of them, at least according to quotes and studies from the Second Amendment supporters. OK, I'll buy that for now. Now, let me ask these same supporters how they feel about other parts of that document, like say, the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees American citizens "protection against unreasonable search and seizures."
If you were to ask me, that right is perhaps one of the greatest protections we have, and clearly the largest difference between us and non-Democratic nations. Yet, we have strong police support for searching cars, drivers and even their passengers during totally routine traffic stops. Why would any citizen riding in a car be subject to a physical search because the driver and owner of that car had a taillight out? It happens every day.
Where's the outrage from the Second Amendment people? And it goes without saying the police are the ones stretching the limits on the Fourth Amendment, so we know where they stand, don't we?
As a strict Constitutionalist myself, and I mean the entire document, not just the cherry-picked version others seem to support, I find this more than a bit worrisome relative to our being a free country, a true democracy. "Red states" are way more supportive of the Second Amendment than the average "blue state."
Many who heap scorn on those in favor of some gun control have the opinion and have told me so that "if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about." Really? Then why have a Constitution in the first place?
How about the First Amendment and the prohibition against the government "establishing a religion." Does that bother anyone? Now, I have to admit, although I understand it, I really think the issue has become a bit much, with "holiday" celebrations and concerts in schools instead of Christmas, that sort of thing. That being said, I'd still err to the side of caution. The reasons for those words are deep and important and ought to be there. But how about those "strict Constitutionalists," how do they feel about it? Well, take a look at various states and areas where the issue of teaching "Creationism", or "intelligent Design" (a disguise for "Creationism") in schools is being pushed.
Once again, in areas where the Second Amendment is deemed most inviolate, the most conservative and "red state" supporters have no issue at all with trying to make an end run around the First Amendment and teach Christian dogma as science, no matter how offensive that may be to others or how illegal. I'm not quite sure how people can insist that the Constitution has no room for adjustment or reinterpretation or regulation relative to the Second Amendment, and then routinely attempt or support the attempts by others to completely trash the First and Fourth Amendments. And I repeat, to make this perfectly clear, it's the same people! I've never quite figured out how that works, how they assemble those various and opposite ideas in their minds and come to terms with it.
Once again, people who defend the Second Amendment most vehemently have no issue at all with the Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations to have First Amendment rights to free speech, that, in fact corporations are "people" in regard to that Amendment. I'd bet our forefathers would be more than a bit shocked at that concept. And wouldn't you know that the judges who made that ruling were all from that "red state" political spectrum.
Don't get me wrong, there have been issues, Constitutional issues, related to more liberal judges as well. School bussing, Roe vs. Wade, other rulings I find thin at best. I don't have an opinion about abortion most of the time, but I do think Roe vs. Wade is a bit strange as I don't recall any Constitutional wording that specifically says anything about "a right to privacy."
Anyway, back to current affairs relative to the Constitution, how about the 14th Amendment, which says "nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law?" Well, this same Supreme Court ruled that a government can take your property under rules of "eminent domain" just because a developer wants to build higher valued and higher taxed housing! Yes, it's true. So, where's the outrage? Why is that outrage only directed at the Second Amendment and no other?
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are important to each and every citizen in this country. It's not based on skin color or ethnicity, it's not just for the law abiding and the religious, it's for each and every citizen in this country. The protections and guarantees are there for very well-thought-out reasons. They are certainly subject to some interpretation, but all of them are important. Supporting only one while supporting the destruction of the rest is as short sighted as it gets.
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to email@example.com