The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sandy Hook

December 22, 2012

Is the Second Amendment the second most important?

(Continued)

The Second, Third and Fourth Amendments limit what Congress may do, extending the list of proscriptions found in Constitution's next provision, Article I, Section 9. Amendments 5 through 8, dealing with such issues as juries, bail and cruel and unusual punishment, limit the government's judicial powers. They relate to Article 3 of the Constitution, which establishes the court system. The final two amendments from the Bill of Rights are guides to interpreting the Constitution as a whole, and likely would have been added to the end.

Although the order of the Bill of Rights doesn't bear on the relative importance of our freedoms, it may shed light on how the founding fathers interpreted the amendments. Modern Americans who rhapsodize about the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights tend to group together amendments 2 (guaranteeing the right to bear arms), 3 (preventing the government from quartering soldiers in the homes of citizens), and 4 (prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures). They view the three provisions as a wall of separation between the government and the private space of a citizen's home. There are indications, however, that the founders considered only the Fourth Amendment to relate to the general inviolability of personal property and the home. The Second and Third Amendments were targeted at Congress's war powers. This interpretation bears on the breadth of Americans' right to bear arms: If the framers intended the right to bear arms to be part of a citizen's participation in national defense, there is greater room for the government to regulate the keeping of firearms for other purposes, like hunting or defense of the home from intruders.

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