Cultural Revolutions

Liberty's Close Call

Americans view liberty as a birthright guaranteed by a written Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Feeling overly secure in their liberties, most cannot imagine any branch of the federal government abrogating constitutional rights such as the freedom of the press or of assembly.  These First Amendment guarantees are enshrined in the Bill of Rights in clear, unmistakable language.

Moreover, in interpreting the Constitution, the judiciary often has a tendency to expand enumerated rights rather than to restrict them.  For example, the Supreme Court has gone so far as to use the “penumbras” and “emanations” from the Third Amendment’s prohibition on quartering troops to strike state laws regulating contraceptives.

Freedom and written constitutional guarantees, however, should not be taken for granted.  On June 26, the Supreme Court came within one vote of erasing the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights.  This amendment, of course, reads as follows: “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 plain language recognizes a personal right, belonging to “the People,” to possess firearms.  Through legal legerdemain, gun-control advocates and four justices sought to limit the Second Amendment to military service.

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