Who woulda thunk it? Today, many Americans are concerned that our own government seeks to nullify the constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms that put the “exceptional” in “American exceptionalsim”. Both the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2012 subvert constitutional protections against unreasonable government search, unwarranted government arrests, and permit indefinite imprisonment without legal counsel or a public trial by jury. These laws rescind the rights guaranteed to citizens by the constitution. But there is one constitutional right that has not been attacked and is unlikely to ever be softened or weakened: the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The reason for this has nothing to do with the government's regard for the constitution and our civil liberties and everything to do with corporate profits.
I recently wrote an article about the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2012 (here: http://www.dailykos.com/...). This measure was passed by the Senate, and now awaits reconciliation with a version passed earlier in the House, and will then go to receive Pres. Obama signature.
The NDAA 2012 authorizes expenditures to pay for the US military. It also includes two provisions that severely limit constitutional protections regarding the rights of US citizens. One provision of the bill mandates that the US military (not the Justice Dept. or US courts) hold and try all Al-queda members and members of affiliated terrorist groups. US citizens would be exempt from this provision. A second provision give the US military the authorization to arrest and detain US citizens suspected of terrorist activities anywhere in the world, including right here in the USA. This provision, which does apply to US citizens, also allows for indefinite detention of suspected terrorists and terrorists sympathizers without access to legal counsel, habeus corpus protections, or a trial by jury.
This bill if signed into law by Pres. Obama, would take away our constitutionally protected civil liberties as set forth in Article III of the constitution, and Amendments V,VI, VIII, and IX. The bill joins with the Patriot Act in eroding the US constitution and limiting or removing our civil freedoms.
The Patriot Act, signed into law by George Bush in 2001 and renewed and expanded by Pres. Obama's signature in 2004, erodes the Fourth Amendment protections against unwarranted search and seizure by allowing law enforcement agencies broad powers to search citizens' private telephone and email communications without judicial review, search through medical, business, and financial records again without judicial review, and eased restrictions on using foreign intelligence gathering methods within the US. The bill also widened the definition of who can be considered an enemy of the US, to include all those who provide “material assistance” to “terrorists”. And let's not forget that to the British of the 17th century, those living in the colonies who came to be called “Patriots” and “Americans” were the very spitting image of terrorists.
Since 2001, the US congress and the presidents have seen fit to widely undermine the US constitution's protections for individual rights and liberties. We are told this is being done to protect us and keep us safe from terrorists and other enemies. But there is one constitutionally protected right that faces no danger of restriction at the hands of congress and that is the Second Amendment. This statement may be of some surprise to vigilant gun-owners who worry that the Second Amendment is under constant attack. However, the last time the congress imposed any restriction on gun sales was 1994, a ban on sales of assault weapons. That restriction was allowed to expire in 2004 and has not since been re-instituted.
However, the House of Representatives did recently pass a bill to expand the rights of gun owners. H.R. 822 (the National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act) would allow gun owners who have conceal-carry permits in one state to carry their concealed weapons in ALL states, regardless of the laws of the individual states. Yep, the GOP controlled House was willing to subvert their strongly held convictions on the importance of states' rights to put more guns in the hands of more people. At a time when congress with broadly hacking at individual rights in so many other areas of law.
Why do the rights of the people to own guns receive such special consideration over the rights of citizens to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure, the right to Habeus Corpus, the right to legal representation and counsel, and the right to a public trial by a jury of their peers? You would think that in an effort to make Americans safer from people who would try to kill us, limiting guns would be a good place to start. After all, the Centers For Disease Control reports that during the years 2001-2009, 450,000 Americans suffered an non-fatal gunshot injury, and during the years 2001-2007, 212,000 Americans suffered a fatal gunshot injury (representing a crude gunshot death rate of 10.3 per 100,000 persons). Compare those numbers to the number of Americans killed in actual terrorist attacks here on US soil during the same period of time: clearly, if al-queda wishes to kill large numbers of Americans they should do what Americans do and buy lots and lots of guns.
The reason why the Second Amendment gets supported and expanded, while Amendments IV, V, VI, VIII, and IX are being softened and eroded, is because there are large corporations that make a lot of money selling guns and ammunition. In 2009, US gun sales for that year alone topped 14 million guns, and profits for gun manufacturers were in the billions of dollars. Those corporations that profit mightily from gun and ammunition sales want to sell as many guns and as much ammo as they possible can to continue and grow their profits, and so they oppose any restrictions on gun ownership. So spending money to buy the legislators and the laws they want makes good business sense. For these corporations, the Second Amendment not only guarantees the right to bear arms, but also customers, sales, and profits.
Conversely, who stands to profit if citizens are protected from having their phones tapped, or their emails read? Which corporation makes money when citizens are permitted a hearing before a judge to determine if their detention is legal? Who will fund a gaggle of lobbyists to descend on Washington to uphold the right to a jury trial?
Small wonder then that rights to gun ownership are upheld and expanded while so many other constitutionally guaranteed rights are being undermined and eroded. Indeed, if we consider how many private businesses are now contracting with states to provide services to prisons and to run private for-profit prisons, we can see how some business are set to profit from stripping Americans of their rights to unreasonable arrest and to challenge their incarceration in a court of law. For these businesses, more prisoners mean more profits. These businesses find it profitable to lobby their representatives for changes in laws to allow them greater prison business opportunities. So lobbying legislators for eliminating the rights that protect citizens from arrest and imprisonment may be horribly un-American, but is a great business strategy. And just what prevents profit-hunger corporations and American law-makers eager for campaign contributions from having such a conversation?
The individual rights of the citizens as described in the US constitution are no longer being protected by our government. Instead, it is the corporate interests that stand up for the rights and liberties of individuals, but only when the corporations feel it is profitable for them to do so. And conversely, we are in danger of losing those rights should corporations think they can profit from the repeal of constitutional protections.
Gun owners and gun enthusiasts will probably find this article vexing and upsetting. As should all Americans who care about their individual rights and our heritage of constitutional law. My point here is not to criticize Amendment II or gun owners (though I reserve the right to do so in another Dk diary), but to criticize the erosion of our democratic system of government to the point where our constitutionally-protected liberties are only supported if a corporation can profit from them. I worry that widespread gun ownership amongst the citizenry may now be the only support and protection available to our constitution and our civil liberties against the growing lawlessness of our own government.