*A sizable chunk of our country, usually labeled liberal, believes the first amendment to be the most important concept in our Constitution. A different sizable chunk, usually labeled conservative, consistently trumpets the second amendment as the key to our Constitution.
The differing perspectives in this instance are rooted in what folks believe to be critical in a free society. And both viewpoints have merit. The first amendment guarantees five freedoms: speech, petition, assembly, religion, and press. The second amendment ensures that citizens have the ability to own weapons in order to defend the country.
Most people would compare the United States with various countries in Africa and western Asia and conclude that our country is better because we have freedoms. The freedom to vote for our leaders, the freedom to make lots of money, the freedom to complain when things don’t go our way. All of these actions are rooted in the freedom of speech and the implied freedom of thought. The freedoms of assembly, petition, and the press are basically the freedom of speech to a higher degree. Basically we view our society as great because we allow everyone to express themselves.
Most people would also agree that when you have something that others like but do not have, you need to protect yourself. This is where the ability to own weapons in defense of the country becomes crucial. Indeed to have something that others want but to not prepare for defense is to invite attack. All of the freedoms of the first amendment that make the country great are in theory protected by the permission of the second amendment.
Nevertheless there are two things that should decide any debate over the most important amendment in favor of the first amendment.
Number one: the first amendment freedoms are primary. It is noteworthy that we cite our freedom of speech in comparison to other countries when touting our greatness and not our ability to own weapons. Without the freedom to petition the government, our country would not be as attractive. The first amendment freedoms are the reason this country is in need of defense; they are the reason it is worth defending.
Number two: the second amendment involves owning weapons for the defense of the country. But very few individuals own the weapons that would be used in defense of the country. How many people have tanks in their garage or fighter jets in their yard? The second amendment is important. But it is a definite notch below the first amendment because it is not as necessary in 2013 as it was in 1788. If the country is attacked, our armed forces will spring into action with weaponry more advanced than private citizens have access to – making the second amendment superflurous to a large extent.
The most important amendment is the one on which the greatness of the country rests. Without the first amendment none of the others are necessary.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected].