The Bill of Rights - which would eliminate?

The U.S. Constitution has ten amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights. Suppose, for whatever reason, you had to eliminate one (and only one) amendment. Which one would it be, and why? (This actually came up for a discussion with some friends last week.) The amendments are listed below:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

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.

Amendment III

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.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

I would repeal the Second Amendment. Under modern circumstances we do not need a privately armed citizenry to prove a “well regulated militia,” and we do not need constitutional protection of arms ownership for any other reason. Note that repealing the Second Amendment would not necessarily imply any particular program of gun control; it would merely strip the issue of its constitutional protection and place it in the arena of ordinary politics, where the NRA and other gun-lovers are quite well enough organized to fight for their position.

Your “right” to own a gun might be important to you, it might even be important in a larger sense, but it does not deserve to be ranked with freedom of speech, freedom of worship, right to trial by jury, etc., as something which is enshrined in the Constitution and set above and beyond the reach of the ordinary political process.

My first choice would be either Amendment 9 or Amendment 10. I like these amendments, and think what they say are important, but I don’t know that they have much practical application. You don’t really see the Supreme Court saying, “This law violates the Tenth Amendment”.

If not those, maybe the third. While I don’t want to be quartering soldiers in my house against my will in peacetime, I don’t think it’s something the government has really considered (although, with all the base closings, maybe they’re looking for housing).

I don’t want to eliminate any of them; if I absolutely had to eliminate one, I suppose I agree with what Captain Amazing said. That bit about “twenty dollars” in the Seventh Amendment could probably stand updating though; it would have been better to have come up with something that didn’t have any specific dollar value attached.

I agree with MEB. No need for a change-- they’ve served us well for over 200 yrs. But if I absolutely had to give one up, #3 seems pretty unlikely to be an issue. Although I do understand why it was an issue at the time of the writing of the Consititution.

The safe pick is definitely #3. Not because there’s anything wrong with it, as John Mace said. It’s simply not an issue anymore- it’s a historical artifact. Ditto #7.

I suspect the controversy will be when more people start nominating the Second Amendment. I agree, I’m just saying. Not that all guns should be illegal; but the more archaic aspects of the law (sorry, the Founders were smart, but they sure as hell didn’t foresee AK-47s and assault rifles- I don’t think they envisioned the day when America would be so domesticated and safe) are being used by some to obstruct what should be a rational public discourse.

I agree that the third isn’t particularly relevant. Although, my understanding is that the UK actually did quarter soldiers during private homes during WWII. I may be mistaken in that, however.

The third amendment wouldn’t even prevent that – soliders can be quartered in people’s homes during times of war as long as it’s in accord with a method prescribed by law.

The 3rd amendment is definitely the safe bet. It’s the male nipple of constitutonal law.

You’d think the 10th amendment would be superfluous, given that it basically says “and we really, really mean it” to the federal structure of government established by the Constitution. But courts have been willing to overlook that structure even with the 9th in place, so maybe we do need it, plus another amendment that says “dammit, please pay attention to the 10th.”

I don’t think the 7th is superfluous, though the dollar amount could use revisiting.

The rest are pretty damned important.

I would repeal either Amendment VII, which clogs our courts–judges are quite well qualified to hear suits for values of $21.00 these days–or Amendment III, which is a historical artifact. Even if they had the power to quarter troops in civilian homes, the US military wouldn’t want to do so these days. The logistics and security would be too much headache for them.

As for the UK quartering troops, it was during a time of war and in a manner prescribed by law, thus it would have been “Constitutional” had it happened in the USA.

Another vote for III.

(I just got told that I have to wait 60 seconds to post this…please forgive me if I end up with two of 'em)

Chalk up another one for III, if one has to go.

I think that the whole “Trial by Jury” issue of VII is a good idea, but they should have tagged it to something tied to inflation, like the per capita monthly GDP or something. Weren’t there any Econ 101 grads among the framers or proofreaders of the Constitution?

[waiting for the flame war to start over II]

I can’t believe that people are thinking at all about tossing out trial by jury. What is the reasoning behind that.

The 10th might as well be tossed between the commerce clause and withholding money for the states unless they pass laws the feds like it is pretty useless now.

I also vote to keep all of them. In fact, I think we should revisit the other 2 which did not pass at the time.

If forced to pick one, I agree that number 3 doesn’t seem likely to be abused any time soon.

Meanwhile, it seems that 9 ant 10 are mostly ignored now anyway.

And just for fun, I’ll start the war over II. If I may suggest that its purpose is not simply to defend he feds from outside threats (well regulated militia doesn’t mean national guard). Its purpose was to make sure that the ultimate power was retained by the people. Although, I am not suggesting that such an action is necessary now. I am only suggesting that the right to bear arms is, in fact, as important as the right to freedom of speech.

I vote for III. Again, not necessarily a bad law, but seems somewhat out of place in the Bill of Rights among such big things as freedom of speech, religion, etc.

           I'll also agree with pervert on II.  I have never owned a gun and probably never will.  And the NRA is a group of extremist nuts, in my opinion, but I still think at its core this is an important law.

It does when your in a situation where a gun saves your life. 11 years ago 2 thugs armed with a tire iron damn near crushed my skull in. Had I not been able to produce a handgun, there is no doubt in my mind they would have suceeded. Freedom of speech and all that didn’t do me any good.

If your worried about crime, I have a better idea (this gets kind of morbid): lets repeal the 8th amendment. The first couple of times a few criminals are burned at the stake in public, crime will drop like a rock.

Don’t like that idea? Alright, then lets keep all the Amendments just like they are.:wink:

Without the right to bear arms, none of the other rights has any meaning. They can be taken away at whim by the government.

Since all of the above amendments can and have been circumvented by clever politicians and judges, I don’t see the point of worrying about which one would we least/most like to see go?

Posted by adaher:

Bullshit, adaher. Purest bullshit. Your automatic pistol and your hunting rifle do absolutely nothing to protect you from the government or to enable you to resist the government. Which is as it should be.

(We’ve already had a GD thread on this: “Is the Second Amendment meant to facilitate armed rebellion?” – http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=201061)

Any serious discussion of gun rights should begin with recognition of a few obvious points:

  1. The “insurrectionary theory” of the Second Amendment – that the “well regulated militia” is intended to be, not an arm of the government, but an independent countervailing force of the people against the government (or of the state governments against the federal government) – is completely indefensible. It has never stood up in an American court of law and it never will. No constitution is a suicide pact. The Declaration of Independence might have recognized a “right” of insurrection against unjust government, but the Constitution is a completely different kind of document, intended to set up a new government that would last indefinitely. The Constitution does not look kindly on “rebellion or insurrection,” and there is no evidence the Second Amendment was tacked on to obviate those clauses.

  2. An armed citizenry is not an effective barrier to government oppression. The Iraqi people (males, at least) were thoroughly armed under Saddam Hussein’s rule, typically with automatic rifles, but it didn’t matter, because the army was armed better, and organized better.

  3. When the police (or FBI, U.S. Army, National Guard, etc.) arrive on the scene of any reported crime or disturbance, the police (etc.) should immediately become the only armed persons on the scene. Any other outcome is a recipe for tragedy. Does anyone seriously care to dispute this?

There is a certain arguable value in allowing citizens to own firearms so they can defend themselves against aggressive criminals in situations where the police not be around to do that job for them. (I just don’t think that value is great enough to be classed with constitutional rights such as free speech, etc.) But there is no arguable value in allowing citizens to own firearms so they can shoot at the police.

For what its worth, the Third Amendment has a history and a purpose. That it seems irrelevant is a consequence, perhaps, of its existence. The practice the amendment forbids has a name. The name is “dragooning.” It derives from the French but it was a common European practice in the centuries before the American Revolution.

If the government had a locality or even a person it wanted to put out of business or shut up or bankrupt it would simply send in a detachment of soldiers to live with the target, eat them out of house and home, raid their bee hives, feed their hay and grain to the government’s horses, break the crockery, insult the womenfolk and generally make life so unpleasant that the target would either shut up to get some relief, or loan money to the King on a no-pay-back basis or go away. When the King moves a bunch of uncouth and underpaid and underfed soldiers into your house as uninvited guests it tends to be pretty oppressive and it surly gets your attention. The Tzar used Cossacks, the French used dragoons and the British used whoever was handy. It was even worse than having the King of Siam give you a white elephant.

Without the amendment I can imagine a squad of tank mechanics setting up camp in elucidator’s family room. Tank mechanics are not nice people.

**Bullshit, adaher. Purest bullshit. Your automatic pistol and your hunting rifle do absolutely nothing to protect you from the government or to enable you to resist the government. Which is as it should be.
**

Funny. I keep hearing about how guerillas with small arms can beat a larger government.

Your interpretation of the 2nd amendment is completely at odds with what the people who actually wrote the thing said about it.