I am…not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and Constitutions….But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
There are widespread attempts to redefine the First Amendment to simply mean “You are free to believe anything at your place of worship but you are not free to practice your conscience elsewhere.
Second Amendment. Point of it 200 years after the Constitution was written. Go.
Here it is:
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.
Well that depends upon your interpretation of the Second Amendment or the Constitution itself, and of course that is the root of the problem. There are those who revere the Constitution almost as much as they do their bible, but there are others (like your truly) who understand it is a flawed document, as all of humankind’s endeavors are. This of course is all without mentioning that the USA currently has the oldest governing document of any of the industrialized nations.
We have to understand the world in which the Constitution was written, then compare and contrast that world to today’s world. The Constitution should be constantly evolving to keep up with reality, a living document as it were.
As far the Second Amendment goes, your common everyday gun-toting conservative takes it to mean any and all weaponry. Your common liberal says it should be regulated to exclude excessively dangerous weapons. Still others say the Second Amendment is meant to apply only to a militia, not to every day citizens (unless they are part of a militia). But the meanings of these things have changed over time. At the country’s founding, there was no standing army and one could argue that the framers didn’t want there to be. Instead, they wanted a group of citizen-soldiers, or a militia, to be around in cases of national security not including war. If and when Congress declared war, they could then raise an army. Of course, that whole thing about the ability to declare war being given to Congress only has been circumvented as well, but that is another can of worms.
So, after all of that, to answer your question from my point of view: I do not believe the Second Amendment should apply exactly how it was written. I do not believe people have an inalienable right to own any type of weapon they choose. I believe weapons and ammunition should be strictly regulated, and that people with a history of violent crimes shouldn’t be able to obtain one.
I’d only add to your closing paragraph… that people who have a history of mental illness shouldn’t be able to obtain one.
Justice Scalia may believe we have a dead Constitution, the legal equivalent of a fly in amber. This was not how most Americans in the Founding era would have viewed the matter. Originalists, both old and new, argue that the theory of the living constitution lacks the legitimacy of their own theory. In fact, the historical pedigree of the theory of the living constitution is it least as good as traditional originalism, and far better than that of new originalism. The fact that Americans are deeply divided today over the relative merits of originalism and the rival theory of the living constitution ought to come as no surprise—Americans were divided over the very same issue when the Constitution was first proposed more than two hundred years ago.
From a great article on a topic of great interest to me and a perspective that in recent conversations I’ve had some difficulty explaining. Filed here for future reference.
The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof has a “Religion and Sex Quiz” that aims to deny that sexual moralists can find support for their views in the Bible. Here’s the first question:
The Bible’s position on abortion is:
a. Never mentioned.
b. To forbid it along with all forms of artificial birth control.
c. Condemnatory, except to save the life of the mother.
The answer: “A. Abortion is never mentioned as such.”
That “as such” is a pretty big qualifier, but in a Solomonic spirit, we’d like to propose a truce: Antiabortion advocates will quit asserting the Bible backs their position, and in exchange, pro-abortion ones will drop the claim that the Constitution supports theirs.
On the matters at hand… abortion, the Bible, and the Constitution of the United States…
It strikes me as no surprise that those who would wish to make the collection of books known as the Christian Bible comply with whatever they determine it should mean would also desire to perform the same interpretive dance on the United States Constitution.
I, however, believe they both deserve to be interpreted for our times… which is to say the Bible is woefully out of touch with reality, progress, science, and our human condition, and the Constitution is a document that provides a framework to allow future generations to use their collective brains and experience to determine how the words and ideas of our founding fathers should be applied to our lives, rights, and freedoms in the year 2011. Hence, you know, amendments.
I find it laughable that a document produced in the 18th century would be considered sacrosanct, and I find it equally laughable that the phenomenally dubious history of the Holy Bible would be summarily dismissed by those who think it anything more than allegory and myth and poetry and should be literally applied to our 21st century lives.