Which is your favorite amendment?

Connor Guy

It seems like it was just yesterday that John McCain and his supporters were calling President-Elect Barack Obama “not a real American” in a last ditch effort to defy increasingly telling poll numbers and clinch the presidency. I remember a certain “Daily Show” sketch from about this time that lampooned the GOP tendency to distinguish themselves from liberals in this way.

The sketch offered a quiz (like one that you’d find in a teenage girl magazine) that would determine with simple criteria whether one’s patriotism is “real” or not. One of the first questions asked was: “Is you favorite constitutional amendment the first, or the second?”

That John Stewart. He is pretty funny.

He implied that “real” Americans (read: “Republicans”) favor the second amendment: the freedom to bear arms: while “fake” Americans (you know who) favor the first.

While not many politicians in their right minds would openly challenge the validity of either of these freedoms, Stewart’s point really isn’t far from the truth. He hits upon an important way in which liberals and conservatives (generally) differ in their approaches to protecting the individual from the government.

How do conservatives protect themselves?

Guns. The idea is that if the people become oppressed by either their own government or an external force, they will have a way of defending themselves. If the commies invade overnight or if Obama really does hand the oval office over to his buddy bin Laden, then we’ll all be ready with our guns.

Gun ownership is, ideally, an effective check against the government. One argument against gun control on the Cato Institute’s Web site contends that “the gun control debate poses the basic question: Who is more trustworthy, the government or the people?” The answer that this question implies is correct, but what it overlooks is that there are other ways to protect the people from government.

How do liberals protect themselves? Speech. If Obama turns out to be a terrible president, as many second
amendment supporters are thinking, then we can nail him with our freedom of speech and press.

Guaranteeing the American people their right to broadcast their own ideas and criticisms is also an effective check against the government. In fact, this is much more effective than guns are. The pen is mightier than the gun.

When it really comes down to it, it’s important to have as many checks against government as possible. While it’s not that likely in our country, government has the potential to be incredibly oppressive. Look at China, Iran and so many other countries where it is a crime to speak against the government and to own a gun.

If we really have to pick either the first or the second amendment, as Stewart’s quiz asks us to, why don’t we consider this: Newspapers don’t cause more than 30,000 deaths per year in our country.