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By: Thomas Deitman (Guest Blogger)
Happy Wednesday, TPS Nation! That’s right – you’ve officially made it half way through your work week! [Insert international paralegal celebration here!] Today, we’re featuring a rather interesting post, written by Thomas Deitman, regarding the U.S. Constitution. Is it really becoming a “choose one from column A, and one from column B” type of document? Many people seem to think so!
Read this post, and let us know what you think.
The other day, I was reading some on-line new sites, when I came across a story that I found rather interesting. Up in New York State, in the area north of New York City, around where the Tappan Zee Bridge crosses the Hudson River, a local newspaper decided to run a story on gun ownership in its three county coverage area. In the story, the paper identified all the gun owners in the counties by name and address and, also printed a map of the locations of their homes.
As you would imagine, the gun owners and the gun rights groups were up in arms (no pun intended) when the story hit the streets. The people claimed that their individual right to privacy had been compromised and that the paper had placed them in the same category as sex offenders and murderers. Not to mention that now all the bad guys in the area knew which houses did not have guns which would make it easier to target the residents of the weaponless homes. The newspaper countered by reminding the readers that it had a constitutional right to print the information, and by the way, it was public information anyway.
Well, this little battle over constitutional rights got me to thinking and I started to wonder if I was the only one who has noticed that The Constitution has become a “pick one amendment from column A and another amendment from column B” document. In another words, whatever a person comes down on, than at least one of the Bill of Rights amendments will protect that person, and don’t worry about any other amendment that might protect the other guy’s rights.
I mean, look at this battle that this newspaper story has created. It would take a constitutional scholar to work it out.
First, the gun owners say that their right to privacy has been infringed. Well, anybody who has read the Constitution knows that, nowhere in the entire thing, does anybody get a “right to privacy”. That falls into the same argument that people make about a “right to an education” or a “right to paint their house purple” (although that may be covered under the First Amendment as an example of freedom of expression!) The closest thing to a right to privacy may be found in my personal favorite amendment, the Ninth. For that matter, I don’t think that the Ninth is really an amendment, more a statement of fact that the government cannot take away some of the issues that are so dear to us (like privacy, or as one of the Supreme Court Justices said,” The right to be just left alone.”) On the other hand, The Framers may have just stuck it in there in case they had forgotten something.
Anyway, the newspaper says, “Wait a minute there, our First Amendment right trumps your right to privacy!” Of course, the gun owners were pretty sure that the Second Amendment rights had been violated, even though the paper did say that the people whose names were printed did have a right to own the guns.
To even the score, and borrowing some protection from the First Amendment, the gun owners printed the names and addresses of the top executives that ran the paper. (There was no information to indicate whether any of these names showed-up on both lists!)
The only issue that has not been discussed so far is that of “equal protection”. I am curious as to why the gun owners have not said that their “equal protection” rights have been violated because the paper did not print the names of knife owners or Pit Bull owners in the area.
In light of what has happened in the country recently, this all sounds like a pretty goofy case of “My Amendment is better than your Amendment.” But I do believe that it points out a real issue when it comes to how we look at our respective issues relative to the other guy’s issues. I have a friend who has been posting some pro-gun stuff on some social media pages and he has gotten a lot of push-back from people who do not agree with him and believe that he should not be allowed to post such stuff.
Really, this idea of choosing an amendment to support one idea and disallowing the other person protection is not new. It happens in most of the highly controversial issues that face us. It has been going on in the pro-life vs. pro-choice issue for years. The question remains, why is it so prevalent?
I think one answer is because most people base their attachment to an issue more on emotion and less on the logic of the law. People do this because the special interest groups play on emotion, rather than logic. It works both ways and affects both sides of an issue. The pro-gun groups install the idea that the government is trying to take away rights to guns as a means to a more sinister end while the anti-gun advocates counter the argument by saying that tighter gun laws will make people safer. The fact of the matter is that both groups are wrong.
The pro-life special interest groups base their arguments on religion and morality while the pro-choicer say something to the effects that it’s my body and I should be allowed to do what I want with it.
The legislatures do nothing because they do not want to offend any group since, to them, campaign funds and votes are at stake.
While all this is going on, everybody seems to be missing the main point: The Law. In these cases the law that is embedded in The Constitution. For the most part, instead of using the Bill of Rights as the means of protection that The Framers intended it to be, we have allowed ourselves to turn it into a battering ram with which to break apart the ideas of those who disagree with us. This failure to understand that all ideas have the right of protection is far more dangerous to our future than any government or special interest group would ever be. We cannot pick and choose what protections are only important to us as individuals. By doing so, we place ourselves and all our fellow citizens in the position to lose all our protections and in the end the battering ram will be used to splinter all of us.
Thomas G. Deitman works as a Paralegal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is the Owner of Amador Paralegal Services, LLC. Thomas is a member of the Delaware County Paralegal Association, American Bar Association, ACLU and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. His primary areas of interest are in criminal defense work and death penalty appeals. Thomas also serves as the Secretary and a Board Member for the Amanda Truth Project, which was created to bring educational awareness to the issues surrounding wrongful convictions in cases involving shaken baby syndrome. The group works to educate the community about the potential for pediatric misdiagnosis, helps families, their lawyers and medical experts to find the truth. Mr. Deitman looks forward to joining The Paralegal Society in 2013 as a regular Guest Contributor!
What do you think, TPS readers? With all of the recent controversy surrounding gun control, this is certainly shaping up to be a fun and interesting topic to tackle! Should we really attempt to pick and choose our amendments? Is there ever a time when it’s justifiable to do so? Yes? No? Maybe?
Hit that comment button and let us know what’s on your mind. We’d love to hear from you – our very own paralegal jury!
We’ll see you on that coveted paralegal holiday otherwise known as “Friday!” Until then, seize the legal work.