The Bill of Rights is comprised of the first ten amendments to the US constitution, which guarantee its citizens personal freedoms such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. These rights were first proposed in the 18th century and were generally meant to protect people from certain injustices and allow them certain liberties. While the judicial system upholds the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to this day, there has been an increasing amount of debates that draw attention to the flaws of the first ten amendments. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the benefits and the drawback of the freedom of assembly, the right to bear arms, and the right to a speedy and public trial.
The Freedom of Assembly
The freedom of assembly is a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights that comparatively does not get that much mention nowadays. The First Amendment maintains it in the US and ensures that any individual can come together with other people to share their ideas peacefully. Additionally, this right is upheld in many countries all over the world and by several international instruments. Most of the assemblies that fall under this law are aimed at expressing political beliefs and protesting against perceived injustices. Additionally, due to current technological capabilities, the freedom of assembly guarantees the right to come together in cyberspace to advocate for one’s views (Benedek & Kettemann, p. 39). The benefits of this freedom maintained by the First Amendment are transparent as this liberty further develops the freedom of speech and allows citizens to be politically active.
However, there are a number of flaws associated with the freedom of assembly as well. Most of the issues arise from the subjectivity of the word “peacefully,” which is a crucial element of the right’s definition and stipulates the expulsion of violent means to share one’s opinions. Nonetheless, as practice shows, the First Amendment does not prevent people from organizing protests aimed at marginalized communities within the country. These groups advertise their assemblies as peaceful, but often the used language can heighten tensions and lead to violence (Campbell). On the other side of the spectrum, governments can classify an amicable marches as dangerous ones as “a method of suppressing dissent and critical voices” (Human Rights House Foundation). Additionally, there is an issue with policing assemblies online, with internet users being widespread across the world (Mungai). In general, the disorganized specifics of the freedom of assembly allow it to work against the people it is trying to protect.
The Right to Bear Arms
The right to bear arms allows US citizens to carry guns for their own defense. The Second Amendment to the Constitution that ensures this freedom forbids the government from infringing on it. However, there are a number of laws regulating which firearms can be carried in public and the process of getting the necessary license. The main benefit of this freedom is that it allows an individual to defend oneself. It is particularly vital now, as certain communities do not feel protected by the law and the government (Warfield). Additionally, having a gun to protect oneself may deter others from even considering committing violent crimes against them. Many citizens consider the Second Amendment a sign of freedom as well which helps maintain good morale in the country. With this knowledge in mind, the right to defend oneself is as important as freedom of speech.
However, the right to bear arms is the one freedom most often brought up for discussion. Many people have noted the increasing number of mass shootings that are being committed with guns, with 417 occurring just last year (Yiwei). These individuals point out when the Second Amendment was ratified, the majority of firearms were rifles that required extensive knowledge to shoot and were generally slow and not accurate (Grace). The rifles that people were using at the time would not be capable of the same damage as modern assault rifles. Nonetheless, the right to bear arms has many ardent defendants who associate it with patriotism and refuse to see the laws change. However, most of the Second Amendment detractors are only proposing enforcing regulations that will make it harder to obtain a gun, which is relatively easy to do now (Smith). An additional law specifying the stipulations for buying firearms would decrease the number of mass shootings happening in the US. It has been pointed out that guns can be used to harm oneself as well which can be prevented if the laws change.
The Right to a Speedy and Public Trial
The right to a speedy and public trial is covered by the Sixth Amendment to the constitution that also enforces the right to a lawyer and the right to a trial by an impartial jury. This law guarantees US citizens that there will be a reasonable time window between the arrest and the trial for the benefit of the accused (FindLaw’s team of legal writers and editors). The reasoning behind this right is that a more extended period between the two events can often produce “anxiety caused by the uncertainty” in the defendant, which can affect the outcome of the trial (Liptak). The public trial clause ensures that all of the evidence and testimonies are not kept secret, which provides transparency that will result in a just decision. Additionally, both of these rights can be beneficial for the victim (Ricke 182). The advantages of the clauses for the prosecuting side are the same as they are for the defending one.
However, there are instances where either of the clauses can be overruled, and the principles by which the decision is made are often subjective and non-transparent. Additionally, “social interest in public trials” can attract the press, which makes finding an impartial jury hard (Barendt 56). The fact that these rights can benefit both the defendant and the victim is problematic as well as either of the sides can take advantage of the system.
Nowadays, citizens of the US take the Bill of Rights for the unbreakable law, often not considering which freedoms it guarantees. However, while some freedoms such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion are universally accepted, many others are prone to serious consideration as they pose potential dangers to the peaceful existence within the US. For some rights, this effect is achieved due to the change between the time of the amendment’s ratifying and the present day. For others, the problem lies within the different ways one can interpret the freedom. However, any potential issues with the Bill of Rights are hard to rectify as people are very defensive of them as these freedoms were enforced long before their birth. Nonetheless, the government should consider taking steps towards ensuring that the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights benefit its citizens.
- Barendt, Eric, editor. Media Freedom and Contempt of Court Year. Routledge, 2009.
- Benedek, Wolfgang, and Kettemann, Matthias. Freedom of Expression and the Internet. Council of Europe, 2014.
- Campbell, Alexia Fernández. “The Limits of Free Speech for White Supremacists Marching at Unite the Right 2, Explained.” Vox, 2018.
- FindLaw’s team of legal writers and editors. “Right to a Speedy Jury Trial.” FindLaw. Web.
- Grace, David. “To Understand the 2nd Amendment, You Have to Understand What Guns Were Like In 1792.” Medium, 2019. Web.
- Human Rights House Foundation. “Freedom of Assembly.” Human Rights House Foundation. Web.
- Liptak, Adam. Supreme Court skeptical on a speedy trial argument. The New York Times, 2016. Web.
- Mungai, Beatrice. “Digital Right: The Freedom of Assembly.” Strathmore University Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law, 2018.
- Ricke, Mary Beth. “Victims’ Right to a Speedy Trial: Shortcomings, Improvements, and Alternatives to Legislative Protection.” Washington University Journal of Law & Policy, vol. 41, 2013, pp. 181-203.
- Smith, Aaron. “This Is How Easy It Is to Buy Guns in America.” CNN Money, Web.
- Warfield, Zenobia Jeffries. “The Racist Origin of the Second Amendment and the Rise of Black Gun Ownership.” Yes!, 2018. Web.
- Yiwei, Hu. “U.S. Mass Shootings: Will 2020 Be Any Different?” CGTN, 2020. Web.