With the recent tragedy in Boston, there was an alarming amount of demand to violate American Constitutional rights in the wake of the arrest. The Daily Show summed it up nicely:
The point is that the biggest advocates of our freedom to bear arms as guaranteed in the Second Amendment are often the most willing to abandon the rest of the Bill of Rights. Here’s a breakdown of how many of our civil liberties certain people would jettison in the name of “terror”.
Bill of Rights Amendments Rejected by Media Pundits
As soon as it came out that the people behind the bombings were inspired by radical forms of Islamic faith, the blanket idea that all of Islam (and accordingly anyone who calls themselves a Muslim) is to blame reared its ugly head again.
The First Amendment guarantees, amongst other things, the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. Many oppose the freedom of Muslims to assemble and practice because some terrorists, especially Osama Bin Laden, have done horrible things under the guise of being a Muslim or citing a holy war against America. While it is arguably reasonable to profile the extremists, the prevention of people establishing a Mosque or practicing their faith is completely unreasonable.
Furthermore, these Muslims, whether American or not, are usually just as horrified as we are that these terrible people. This is self-evident because Muslims often self-report when there’s someone recruiting for terrorist activities. The overwhelming number of good people who happen to worship Allah do not condone the terrorist activities, and those who would punish these good people for the few acts of the heinous should be ashamed.
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, where a search has been interpreted to include a right to privacy when reasonably expected. Allowing prevalent wire-tapping without cause would undermine not only the rights of someone suspected (potentially wrongfully), but allow for government entities to overstep their bounds. The Constitution protects us from being monitored constantly as if we were constantly potentially going to do something wrong, and to give up that right would allow a slippery slope into many areas, including electronic communications.
The Fifth Amendment addresses the concept of being held for a felony without indictment by a Grand Jury, shall not be compelled in a criminal case to be a witness against themselves, and shall not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process. All of that tends to go straight out the window when discussing a suspected criminal in a heinous crime – the masses tend to forgo due process and want immediate retribution. While emotions are totally understandable, if we were to consistently do this, it would erode one of the fundamental ideas behind our fair trials.
The people who orchestrated the attack in Boston certainly instilled fear and terror amongst people, but that in of itself should not cause us to describe them as “terrorists” using “weapons of mass destruction” (which they weren’t using WMDs, but this term has seem to caught on in portions of the media and subsequently, the public). They should be entitled to, amongst other things, a fair trial where they are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based upon evidence outside of their unwilling testimony.
There is some concern about reading the suspect their Miranda rights given that there may be more bombs and an imminent threat to society. However, the Miranda rights do not prevent law enforcement from asking about things that potentially threaten public safety, ranging from a gun that is missing from its holster to the possible bomb, and all of that would still be admissible in court. So this theoretical concern about asking questions about bombs or other devices that might hurt someone is a reasonable thing to do, and would still be used as evidence in a court of law.
The Sixth Amendment ensures the right in criminal prosecutions to a speedy, public, and fair trial where he is judged by a jury of his peers. The idea of treating a criminal as an “enemy combatant” simply because they are accused of mass murder would completely circumvent this amendment and the right to Due Process as enumerated in the constitution. Again, this is just simply a gross violation of one of our fundamental Constitutional rights. These college students are not military or paramilitary – they are simply horrible people who committed a terrible crime. Assuming they are guilty, there is no need to give them some sort of “superstar” status by giving them a special trial, and they should receive the justice that they deserve. Civilian trials for mass murders happen and are generally effective at finding people guilty, causing them to rot in prison or be put to death – that should be sufficient in this case.
The Eighth Amendment addresses cruel and unusual punishment. In this situation, people advocated water-boarding and torturing this person to find out more information, and in my personal opinion, as vindication pre-trial for the horrible events that happened. Torture has repeatedly been defined as cruel and unusual punishment, but that seems to not matter anymore if we really don’t like the crime the person is accused of.
Bill of Rights Amendments Excluded Because They Don’t Apply
The Third Amendment discusses involuntary housing of soldiers. This doesn’t apply in this situation.
The Seventh Amendment discusses civil trials by juries. Again, it doesn’t apply.
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments discuss limitations on Federal powers and reserving the rights not specifically enumerated to the States and the People. These are largely about how to apply Amendments 1-8 and the Constitution, so they don’t apply either.
Bill of Rights Amendment Suspiciously Not Mentioned?
The only Amendment remaining is the Second Amendment. The untouchable right to keep and bear arms. Note that the types of arms (i.e. guns) are not specifically stated in the Second Amendment. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suddenly calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment and keeping everything else. However, isn’t it a little suspicious that there’s no discussion about preventing violence given A) these bastards killed, maimed, and injured a whole lot of people and B) they did have a gun on them?
I am not suggesting that we remove the right to bear arms. I am simply astonished (but not shocked) by how short-sighted someone can be to focus exclusively on one amendment that suits their purpose and not speak up our be outraged about the trampling of other rights at the same time, or even worse – call for the infringement of these rights while hypocritically claiming that this one Amendment is untouchable.
If someone is to call themselves a scholar of the Constitution and to protect all Constitutional rights, they should think carefully before acting in a way that would violate all the principles that happen to not apply to them in this moment. Those who would instill fear and terror win when they affect our psyche and way of life, not just by a body count – by allowing our lives to so dramatically change because of an tragedy encourages those who would harm us to attempt more heinous acts.