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Milt Hankins: Let's take a fresh look at the Bill of Rights

Jan. 18, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Regrettably, we have too many people in this country who are chiefly concerned with self-interests rather than the interests of the general population.

Three examples relating to American ideals come to mind: 1) people who abuse the "right to free speech," 2) people who are paranoid that their guns will be confiscated by the government; and 3) those people who promote the idea that the possession of more guns deters violence.

The First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution guarantees the right of free speech. It is too broad in its scope, allowing for atrocities like those perpetrated by the Westboro Baptist Church and their ilk. Do they have the right to free speech? Now, they do.

The Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution guarantees the right to a well-regulated militia and the right to bear arms. It, too, is altogether too broad in its scope, addressing the issues of the time when it was first enacted. It does not suitably address the problem of guns and/or gun control today. Do people have a right to own weapons? Of course, they do.

In my humble opinion, both the First and the Second Amendments need to be reconsidered by the Congress of the United States. The First Amendment needs to address the rights it gives people to harass, vilify and otherwise stalk those who are mourning the loss of loved ones. I am saying that free speech must be denied to people who misuse and/or abuse it. The classic example is, of course, those people who would shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

The first two amendments were applicable and much needed in August of 1789 when they were first adopted by the House of Representatives, when George Washington was president, and when this nation depended upon a citizen militia for protection. For obvious reasons, the Second Amendment allowed the "right to bear arms" against the government and/or the enemies of the government. Because of those people who were radical concerning the fledgling government, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed under the John Adams administration. They were later declared unconstitutional.

The aforementioned situations are totally unrealistic and indefensible in 2013. If the federal government wants to deny anyone the right to bear arms, it can. With all of its power and might, it could and should confiscate all weapons held in private hands except for those manufactured for self-protection and sport, period. There is little an armed citizenry could do to prevent it. I can assure you, the scattered pockets of resistance would be swiftly dispatched. Assault weapons must be banned!

Should we have the First and Second Amendments protections in our Constitution? Absolutely. But, they need to be rewritten so that they are more relevant to 2013 than to 1789.

Citizens who refuse to speak up for a fresh look at the Bill of Rights must bear partial responsibility if nothing is done to make our country a safer and more pleasant place to live.

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.



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