Nurturing Your Constitutional Rights

In recent weeks, as is the case in any set of weeks here in America, there have been some notable incidents of public figures misspeaking. In this case, I am referring to racially insensitive comments made by a couple of NBA team owners. One incident occurred in private (Donald Sterling) and one in public (Mark Cuban). One incident was offensive and part of a pattern of behavior (Sterling) and one was largely misunderstood and arguably not insensitive at all (Cuban). Both provoke discussion of our First Amendment rights of the freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Honestly, I have enjoyed talking about this stuff and am genuinely thankful for Sterling’s stupidity and Cuban’s frankness. But more importantly, I have enjoyed how preciously these constitutional rights have been nurtured over time. Nurtured from the perspective that we really do have no limit on our legal opportunity to say whatever we want and that opportunity is truly part of our cultural fabric. Additionally, both incidents were reported in a variety of ways, editorialized in an even larger variety of ways, and as far as I know, no defamation lawsuits are being considered. Again, the expectation that the press will be as brutal as possible in times like these is also a default part of the American psyche. We don’t even really debate it much anymore.

We should celebrate the way our forefathers wrote the First Amendment and how it has stood the test of time. However, each generation since then should take credit for that as well. It hasn’t always been easy to make sure these rights stayed in place, and in nearly 227 years since the signing of the Constitution, imagine how often it was tempting to just put a lid on some crazy speak. The urge has been fought back probably countless times. Today, it might just seem too daunting of a task to amend the constitution as a result of any troubling trend of the abuse of these rights. Social and cultural pressures have proven to be a more effective strategy to discourage bad ideas any way. In today’s world, those that are concerned about any threat to the preservation of these rights really don’t have much to worry about. Culturally, no one is challenging it.

But pretend for a moment that these rights were being challenged for whatever reason. What would your opening argument be as to why it is vital that we keep the rights in place exactly as they are? Most of us could put together a good argument and sound relatively bright and educated on the matter. We have all been born and raised with this ideal and concept drilled into us. It’s good to be an American on this one.

Now let us briefly discuss the Second Amendment. There are people on every corner advocating the preservation of the “right to bear arms” portion of this amendment these days.

Since the Sandy Hook school shootings in December of 2012, there have been 74 shooting incidents in schools alone in this country and no meaningful policy change anywhere to respond to school shootings. Guns rights advocates, come up with your own idea that will make a dent, a scratch, a microscopic shift in this one area of the Second Amendment debate that Congress or States can pass. This isn’t a task for people who don’t think the Second Amendment is even necessary anymore or for people who advocate for staunch gun control laws here. It’s for the NRA. It’s for nonmembers of the NRA that agree with them. It’s for gun manufacturing companies.

If it’s as precious as the First Amendment, don’t take it for granted, and do something meaningful to nurture it. Doing nothing isn’t working and the rest of us have grown tired of our children being unsafe for no good reason.

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Michael Leppert

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