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Although the American constitution has undergone significant changes, none have been as significant as the 1791 Bill of Rights. The United States constitution's first ten amendments are listed here. James Madison enacted these amendments in response to the demands made for the protection of individual liberty. The specific restraints on state power are spelled forth in the Bill of Rights. Federalists first criticized it harshly, but over time, American citizens have come to appreciate it as an essential component of the US constitution (Fairman, 27). Today, the Bill of Rights act as leash on the states’ power to individuals and their liberties. In this paper we are going to carefully look at two amendments of the Bills of Rights. The second amendment giving Americans the right to own arms (guns) and the first amendment that gives all Americans the right to freedom of speech; freedom to choose and peacefully engage in any religion; freedom of assembly and freedom to petition any grievance from the government.
The second amendment of the Bill of Rights gives American citizens the freedom to own arms, the right to have a well-regulated militia that is necessary to the security of a free state. This has been the most discussed and criticized amendment over the past decades. We have witnessed various restrictions placed by both state and federal governments in the name of gun controls. We have also seen federal government put restrictions on assembly of certain groups that are deemed to be extremist and racist. It does not go without stating the stern regulations put by the federal government regarding religious practices (Hunter, 39). This bring the question on the contradiction imposed by these set of occurrences. We have seen various states impose laws to curb ownership of fire arms by individuals and states that have permitted the ownership of fire arms have developed extreme regulations on handling and safety keeping of the fire arms. Also in regard to this second amendment we have witnessed certain limitations set on certain gatherings like the Ku Klux Klan, which are now stereotyped to be more hatred driven.
The government has tried to its level best to maintain a level balance between abiding by this second amendment and also make sure that the basic individual human rights are still maintained. In the United States, gun related crimes have been on steady rise and the government has devised various ways to curb this. Trying to control the ownership of the firearms has been on the frontline in addressing this issues. Instances where school going children have access to fire arms and go to extent of carrying them to their respective schools and in some cases firing them at their fellow school mates. This has led to the public questioning and also the federal government questioning on the impact of societal wellbeing by this amendment. Abolishment of this amendment has brought both support and criticism in equal measure and a stalemate exists between the two parties.
The first amendment that makes sure all American citizens enjoy the protection of the state in matters pertaining freedom of speech, the right to engage in any religion or religious activity, the right to peacefully assemble without government’s restrictions and the right to put the government on the spot in case of grievances. Recently past we have seen laws that are aimed at discouraging freedom of speech especially targeted to news media houses. Media gags have been witnessed over the decades and certain journalists being given complete blackout. Religious practices have not been left out the previous restriction on religious practices placed on certain if not all schools and institutions creates a contradiction between the government’s effort to maintain the Bill of Rights and still ensure a somewhat wellbeing in the society. In the past decade the right to speech has played an important role in exposing various scandals that faced the federal government (Brennan, 536). Also peaceful assembly has been lauded to be the best and in most cases the only important action that can get the federal government’s attention. Over the past few years we have seen public assemblies receiving massive criticism from the federal government and a certain section of the American public. In some instances brute methods such as police brutality is witnessed when it comes to controlling the assembled lot. Away from the government, we have seen some religious gatherings – a good example is the Ku Klux Klan - that are associated to a dark era of the American history assemble and engage in their activities under the protection of the Bill of Rights. These forms a basis of contention between these amendments and the basic human rights of each American citizen.
The Bill of Rights has impacted the American constitution immensely. This has not come without its fair share of challenges (Black, 865). Over the time there have been contradictory instances that have brought about contention between these ten amendments and the rest of the American constitution. Despite all the setbacks the ten amendments have faced, their impact has changed the relationship between the state and the citizens of the United States of America.
Black, Hugo L. "The bill of rights." NyUL Rev. 35 (1960): 865.
Brennan Jr, William J. "The Bill of Rights and the States: The Revival of State Constitutions as Guardians of Individual Rights." NyUL Rev. 61 (1986): 535.
Fairman, Charles. "Does the Fourteenth Amendment Incorporate the Bill of Rights? The Original Understanding." Stanford Law Review (1949): 5-139.
Hunter, Phil. "Bill of rights." Engineering & Technology 1.8 (2006): 36-40.
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