The US Constitution: Why It Has Done Us Wrong


By Katrina McDaniel, Contributor


In writing a heavy piece like this, I resign from witty comebacks and joking phrases. I cannot muster within me a sarcastic response to the American system while shooting tragedies continue to rock the world of politics and leave me, perhaps naively, in a state of shock. Too many times I am left, head in hands, wondering what our world has come to. And every time I am awed, I am in tears, I am warm from the solidarity and love that people give to one another in times of turmoil.

And yet, every time a tragedy happens of this kind, the American government send their condolences and then continue to uphold their sacrosanct, rigid American values. The government shall not infringe upon the rights of the people and thus we will have freedom from government.
The romanticism of the Constitution fades when one reads between the lines of an apparently timeless document. It is a beautiful idea that every human being is born with a set of fundamental rights that cannot be taken away, unalienable and defined so definitely that they cannot be touched. Beautiful; until you realise that the creators of the Constitution physically owned slaves and did not actually mean to include women. But you know that, right? Unalienable rights are for white people, obviously.

A counter argument to this would be that Supreme Court interpretation makes the Constitution a living, breathing document, which is shaped and changed to suit the needs of society. Even in the case of the LGBT community, Obergefell vs Hodges in 2015 allowed for total equality in the field of marriage. But to base these rights on a document that had no conception of the ideas of abortion, equality among the races and LGBT rights is a long shot. With no conception of future needs, how can we apply it to our ever evolving society?
Which brings me to the point of today: mass shootings in America. Whatever the vision for the future, the Founding Fathers could not have conceived the mass violence that gun ownership has caused, and so the Second Amendment should not be treated as a contemporary interpretation of a contemporary problem. Even the language of the Amendment is evidence of its anachronism:

`A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.


There is no need for a militia in our modern day society: we are not in Civil War nor protecting ourselves from the other nations that have colonised the land. We are supposed to be a civilised and logical group of humans, who put democracy above all else. Instead, we insist that the comma between the mention of a militia and the mention of bearing arms means that we can, even in today’s political climate, shoot one another. We tell ourselves that we cannot let the government interfere and change these rights, or even control the sale of guns.

Rights should not be infringed upon to avoid tyranny from the government, yet it is laughable that people are willing to defend the rights to guns but did not protest the passing of the Patriot Act (which arguably violates the 1st, 2nd, 4th and due process amendments). One will allow rights to be alienated when it protects you, but when others are being killed under lenient gun laws the government is not allowed to toy with fundamental rights. Rights aren’t supposed to be subjective; if you’re going to be a bigot, at least be consistent. If you remember, Franklin himself opposed this:

“He who surrenders privacy in the name of security cannot have, nor does he deserve, either one.”


But it is not the government who have been conducting mass shootings; at least, not in their own country. America’s government has not been responsible for infringing on the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is the people, doing it to each other. This is what it has come to: people are more willing to defend their ability to have a gun than defending the lives of their fellow human beings. They are literally ready to overlook murder in order to secure unrestricted access to a weapon that can murder people. We are killing people over a comma.
Gun control is not a dirty phrase. It is not infringing on one’s rights, it is not tyranny from the government.

Throw at me every argument you want; that rights cannot be changed, that the Bill of Rights should be sacred to avoid freedoms being denied. And I agree with you wholeheartedly that individuals’ rights are the foundation of a democracy. Our rights are all important.
What about theirs?



Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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