Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Constitutional Amendment Addressing Technology?

The Second Amendment is the only article in the Bill of Rights that specifically addresses a rapidly changing technology. What if our forefathers wrote the Constitution today? Would the Second Amendment be the right to a car, computer, or Internet access instead of the right to bear arms?

Unlike the 18th century, technologies and issues now become outdated or irrelevant faster than ever. One needn't look past the Third Amendment to see an outdated issue in the Bill of Rights. The Third Amendment has never been the primary basis of a Supreme Court decision. And it may never be given that the United States has transitioned from a militia, to a standing army, to what now seems like a permanent war. A permanent war not against a state or government, but rather an idea: drugs, terrorism, etc. How do wars like this end? Who surrenders and signs the peace treaty leading to the release of the prisoners held in Gitmo? It seems to me that ending all terrorism in the world would be the equivalent of ending worldwide crime. A noble, yet impractical goal we should still strive for with the understanding that it cannot be fully achieved.

The key purpose of the Second Amendment was to give American citizens a daily tool while keeping the government in check. The balance of arms between the people and local communities, compared to the federal government, used to be even. Today, a rebellion by Americans against the federal government would be a disproportionate fight. Private citizens do not own or control weapons of mass destruction (nor should they). Two hundred and fifty years ago, people could not arm and stash a flintlock pistol in their pocket. Also the firearms of that time, from pistols to cannons, were single shot. Percussion cap weapons, the predecessor to bullets, weren't introduced until the 1820s.

I'm not suggesting that we add a Constitutional amendment banning firearms. Nor do I have a solution to ending gun violence. Part of my argument is that having the Constitution address a specific technology may have been a bad idea. More importantly, the Constitution is about giving rights to citizens, not restricting them. There's no place in it for banning alcohol, barring gay marriage, or restricting suffrage.

Simply because the Framers wrote the Constitution doesn't mean it's an absolute human right. Unless you think minorities shouldn't vote and alcohol should be banned. Bearing arms is a right, driving is a privilege – which is more practical in today's America? So, I leave you with no answers, only questions.

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