Just this one amendment stays sacred?

Have you noticed how politicians of every persuasion have taken to prefacing each comment they make about guns with a pledge of support for the Second Amendment?

In case you've been away, that's the amendment that says the people have the right to bear arms because a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state. If they had written it in that order originally, it might be less contentious now.

The Second comes conveniently after the First, which gives us freedoms that tend to be much more important than the right to have a gun-those of speech, religion and the press and being able to assemble peaceably and petition the government to redress our grievances.

And it comes just before the Third, which proves again the Framers could sometimes write as badly as future generations: "No Soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

Fortunately, quartering soldiers hasn't happened much since the Redcoats left and took the Hessians with them, but the same people who see gun control as a plot to seize their weapons may worry that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel might close housing at the Submarine Base and try to bunk sailors in Groton rent free.

But let us return to the subject at hand, which is why our politicians now precede everything they say about guns by proclaiming their devotion to the Second Amendment.

Of course, Mr. President or Madame Senator, you support the Second Amendment; you support all of them, along with the part of the Constitution that wasn't amended. You swore you do when you took your oath of office.

Politicians feel they have to genuflect to the Second because the National Rifle Association's marketers have turned it into Holy Writ. By some miracle of press agentry, they have falsely transformed it into the only absolute amendment, no longer subject to change.

So if the Second Amendment is absolute, will only the rich be able to buy drones?

Isn't it interesting too how our feelings for this amendment or that changes with the times? The First is the most subject to interpretation and therefore, controversy. The religious right sees it as a license to say prayers in school and put the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall; the militant left says a Christmas tree shouldn't be allowed on the town green and neither side seems to think the other has a right to its opinion.

The far right loves the Tenth Amendment, which reserves for the states the powers not given to the federal government in the Constitution. This is especially appealing to the states rights adherents who long for the days when the cotton was high, mammy was singin' in the kitchen and the president was white.

The Sixth Amendment's right to a speedy trial no longer exists.

You have to be of a certain age to remember when the Fifth was all the rage or rather, the object of all the rage. That's the amendment that protects us against double jeopardy, provides due process and just compensation if the state develops an undue interest in your property. But then there's the subversive part that protects the bad guys, that says no one shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

This begat the Fifth Amendment Communists, who became the stars of early television by appearing at congressional hearings where they would cite the Fifth Amendment's protection in refusing to say if they are now or have ever been members of the Communist Party.

Since answering any question would open up a witness to having to answer all questions, some congressional questioners considered it great sport to force a witness to "take the Fifth" in response to a series of silly questions.

So, you see, things really have been worse.

Dick Ahles is a retired journalist from Simsbury.


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