The United States Constitution Is Not Firm and Unchangeable
Before we can begin to discuss this next legal principle, we have to rid ourselves of the idea that our American Constitution, let alone the Laws that are founded upon it, is a firm and unchangeable document. The truth of our history is, that our Laws, and the interpretation of our Constitution, change over time; and with the spirit of the times. That being said, it’s fair to say, that the current (and recently changed) position of our United States Supreme Court, on the proper interpretation of our Second Amendment, is that individuals do have a constitutional right to personally keep and bear firearms.
Just What Are Our Constitutional Rights?
Now, this is somewhat of a change in the relatively recent interpretation of our law. Previously, opinions have sought to persuade that the thrust of the “right” to possess firearms, really concerned the rights of States to have militias, like the national guard; and not the rights of individual persons to own and possess guns for personal use. Another thing that will be important to realize, is that when a right is found in the first ten amendments of the Constitution ( the “Bill of Rights”), such a”Right” will be of particular importance and strength; at least in terms of the fact that, if the “right” is going to be somewhat ignored or modified by any government, it will have to be for a very “compelling” reason. None of the “Rights” are so important that they can’t be changed, if there is a compelling reason for doing so. For instance, there is no “Right” more basic, and even as sacred, as the Right of Freedom of Speech; but according to the opinion of a Supreme Court Justice, in an actual case on the subject, the First Amendment will not go so far as to protect a person who would yell “fire” in an open theater, when there would be no fire.
Is There a Limit To Our Constitutional Rights?
Our Supreme Court, just about the turn to the 20th Century, found that the sacred Right of Religious Freedom, did not extend to a right to engage in plural marriage. Another thing to keep in mind, is the fact that, even in the case of these most important and fundamental rights, the courts and legislatures will still have the power to modify and otherwise regulate the “time, place and manner” of the exercise of these most important rights. For instance, even local governments will be found to have the power to prevent unregulated animal sacrifice, and other burnt offerings, in the name of religious freedom.
Now, with these principles in mind, it’s now possible to conclude, that even though a right, like personal possession of a gun, is a very established and protected Constitutional Right, it will be subject to regulation. For instance, the right to “keep and bear” a firearm, might be modified to require that the weapon not be carried as a concealed weapon; or even transported in a motor vehicle. Perhaps the “time” of possession might prohibit possession in a court house, a church, or even outside of one’s home —- except, perhaps, on a hunting trip, for instance. It will still be left to the courts to determine whether the possession and use of certain types and designs of firearms can be regulated.
There doesn’t seem to be much resistance to the idea that one should not be allowed to possess, let alone use, high caliber automatic weapons, like machine guns; or things like cannons and rockets; but, how many bullets can be contained in a “clip” for a semi-automatic weapon; or the caliber and velocity of certain weapons, are likely to be questions that will be commonly considered in the not too distant future.