kottke.org posts about Constitution

The shifting meaning of the Second AmendmentDec 18 2012

Ezra Klein asked Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional scholar, about the Second Amendment. Amar responded with two artworks that illustrate how the meaning of the Second Amendment has shifted over the years.

In a nutshell, almost everything ordinary Americans think they know about the Bill of Rights, including the phrase 'Bill of Rights,' comes from the Reconstruction period. Not once did the Founders refer to these early amendments as a bill of rights. We read everything through the prism of the 14th amendment -- including the right to bear and keep arms.

The Fourteenth Amendment has a lot of parts, among them the definition of citizenship, Civil War debt, due process, and equal protection. Amar wrote more about the interplay between the 2nd and 14th Amendments for Slate in 2008.

But the 14th Amendment did not specifically enumerate these sacred privileges and immunities. Instead, like the Ninth, the 14th invited interpreters to pay close attention to fundamental rights that Americans had affirmed through their lived experience-in state bills of rights and in other canonical texts such as the Declaration of Independence and landmark civil rights legislation. And when it came to guns, a companion statute to the 14th Amendment, enacted by Congress in 1866, declared that "laws ... concerning personal liberty [and] personal security ... including the constitutional right to bear arms, shall be secured to and enjoyed by all the citizens." Here, in sharp contrast to founding-era legal texts, the "bear arms" phrase was decisively severed from the military context. Women as well as men could claim a "personal" right to protect their "personal liberty" and "personal security" in their homes. The Reconstruction-era Congress clearly understood that Southern blacks might need guns in their homes to protect themselves from private violence in places where they could not rely on local constables to keep their neighborhoods safe. When guns were outlawed, only outlaw Klansmen would have guns, to paraphrase a modern NRA slogan. In this critical chapter in the history of American liberty, we find additional evidence of an individual right to have a gun in one's home, regardless of the original meaning of the Second Amendment.

28th Amendment ratifiedDec 17 2012

The US has ratified a new amendment to the Constitution, the 28th such alteration. The Onion has the scoop:

"The provisions of the 28th Amendment will fully protect the right of all individuals to spend every waking moment utterly terrified at the thought of a deranged stranger with a semiautomatic combat rifle gunning them down," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), explaining that the measure also permits Americans to suffer panic attacks anytime their loved ones go to work, school, malls, or virtually any other public location.

As I said on Friday, The Onion is perhaps our most emotionally honest media source.

A five-minute crash course in constitutional lawJun 27 2007

A five-minute crash course in constitutional law by Walter Delinger, former Solicitor General to the Supreme Court and current law professor at Duke.

A list of things that are notAug 04 2005

A list of things that are not specified in the US Constitution.

How to solve the separation of churchJul 06 2005

How to solve the separation of church and state problem in the US. "Offer greater latitude for religious speech and symbols in public debate, but also impose a stricter ban on state financing of religious institutions and activities".

Tags related to Constitution:
constitution legal usa politics

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