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January 13, 2011 08:57 AM UTC

The price of the Bill of Rights

  • by: NoCo_Indy

After reading the This Modern World cartoon on Wednesday, it got me to thinking that, yeah, it’s true that the cost of an unfettered Second Amendment is the occasional shooting spree. There’s no way around it. Until the country takes seriously the threats posed by semi-automatic and assault weapons, intended solely as anti-personnel weapons, we’ll have to live with the consequences.

It got me to thinking about the costs of the other amendments:

I would argue that each of the consequences is worth it.

First Amendment: Lots of consequences for this one. Here they are, one by one.

Establishment of religion: Means there will be Westboro Baptist Churches out there, as well as cults and other belief systems that prey on those looking for a bigger answer.

Free exercise thereof: Means there will always be times when someone might be uncomfortable with a person nearby wearing a burqa, offering blessings in airports (well, if TSA allows it anymore) or building a retreat in your neighborhood of the state.

Freedom of speech: You’ll be offended by something someone says. Sorry.

Freedom of press: The media you watch will be biased. Worse, biased in a way that’s not to your liking.

Peacefully assemble: Means there will be demonstrations, or worse, long meetings where nothing seems to get done except kvetch about the current leadership. But the thought police aren’t there to take notes (unless you’re a Denver activist, sometimes …)

Petition the government: Means there will be some really long city council and school board meetings to sit through, sometimes.

Second Amendment: The right to bear arms means sometimes people will have them and use them for ill intent.

Third Amendment: Means the government will be big and expensive, because instead of housing a soldier at your place we have to build a barracks for him or her.

Fourth Amendment: Means sometimes prosecutors may not get a full conviction because all the evidence won’t be known. So bad guys may be on the loose. On the other hand, many other good guys will remain free.

Fifth Amendment: Lots of stuff here, but it boils down to meaning sometimes bad guys will go free because there’s not enough evidence to convict, or the evidence may appear after they’ve already been tried. This is the classic freedom test in the United States: I’d rather have a criminal go free than see an innocent person punished.

Sixth Amendment: The down side is that sometimes a bad guy may go free because a full jury doesn’t believe the prosecution’s case. See above.

Seventh Amendment: The worst case scenario is that you’ll have to serve on jury duty. (joking) The tradeoff on this one is that we’ve become a much more litigous society than those of comparable democracies. I can live with it, because someday I might need that audience in a court of law.

Eight Amendment: Means that sometimes a bad guy might get returned to society before victims are ready. Because honestly, there are some crimes for which the victim will have a lifetime of pain but their attackers will serve a much shorter sentence.

Ninth Amendment: Means that people can do annoying things, like grow zucchinis in their backyard and then pretend to be neighborly and leave them on your porch. And the feds can’t stop ’em! Or things that haven’t been invented yet, like another Apple product that will get billions of dollars of free advertising by a fawning media.

Tenth Amendment: Means that Nebraska will have sideways traffic signals. What’s up with that?

I’m sure I’ve oversimplified. But as we talk about “solutions” after the Tucson shootings, we need to remember the unintended (or intended, malevolently) consequences of where we go from here.


10 thoughts on “The price of the Bill of Rights

      1. From Wikipedia:

        When mounted vertically red is on top, but when mounted horizontally the red light’s location depends on the rule of the road, being on the left in a country that drives on the right (e.g. the United States) and on the right in a country that drives on the left (e.g. Japan).

        I remember learning this back in PA when I took my driver’s test, but promptly forgot it because I am not color-blind.  Your mileage may vary from state to state.

        1. between the Denver line (Yosemite Street) and Havana Street. Or at least they used to. I still remember seeing them for the first time when I was five or six and being blown away.

        2. Traffic lights in New York City only had two colors–red and green, no amber.  The way you knew the light was about to turn red was that the red light would come on while the green was on and the traffic light was lit red and green.

          Talk about confusing…

  1. Taking it a step further, I’d rather see 9/11 all over again that have all our freedoms from unreasonable search and seizures be impinged. When I think of the Patriot Act, I think of the famous statement that those who prefer security over freedom deserve neither.

    (To be clear, I agree with all of these, but those are the ones that resonate with me the most.)

  2. .

    good new perspective that will stimulate or sustain important conversations.

    Though I read #3 a little differently, understanding it to mean that the military is not the boss of civilians.


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