U.S. Constitutional Amendments

By, Maggie Owensby

What is a constitutional amendment and how does it get ratified?

A constitutional amendment is a formal change to the text of the written constitution of a nation or state. The first method is for a bill to pass both houses of the legislature, by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it goes on to the states. The second method prescribed is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, and for that Convention to propose one or more amendments. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions.

The First Constitutional Amendment

Personal Freedom

Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therefor; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition theGovernment for redress of grievances.
The First Amendment protects the right of Americans to worship as they please, or, if they prefer, to have no religion at all. The principles are known as freedom of religion and separation of church and state. The First Amendments also protects freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the expression of ideas in newspapers, books, radios, televisions, and to some extent movies, and internet. So the government can not prevent individuals from freely expressing there opinions. It also says you have the right to assemble groups handhold demonstrations and finally the First Amendment protects the right to criticize government officials and their actions. Or the rights to sign petitions in support of an idea, to present those petitions to government officials, and to send letters to those officials are all protected. But you have to be careful because freedom of speech is not always unlimited.
They most likely included this amendment in the constitution, because back when England had control over the colonies the British government didn't let the colonists worship or speak as they please. They didn't let them have the freedom of press or the right to criticize the government officials either. So the founding fathers of the United States of America wanted to make sure that the people had the right to do all those things so they made it an amendment. To make sure it would never happen again.
To be more descriptive...

Freedom of Speech:

Freedom of speech generally means the freedom to say anything you want. Back when the colonist were still considered British they couldn't talk poorly about the nobles and if they did they would most likely be put to death. I like the idea of freedom of speech. But sometimes it gets out of hand. Like a classic example of what would happen today is say you where in a movie theatre. A man or women yelled fire as a joke (when there was no fire). Everyone sprints out of the theatre and in the process tramples and injures a little kid. Should that be legal? I think there should be a law so if someone goes to an extreme like that they would still be aloud to be punished.

Freedom of Religion:

Freedom of religion basically means the freedom to believe in or worship anything you want. Back then if the King or Queen heard or saw you practicing another religion or not practicing the right religion you would most likely be put to death. Today you are aloud to practice any religion you want in America. Thanks to our founding fathers! But an example today is say you wanted to built a church on a street corner, but the government wouldn't let them because they said that street corner they needed for something else. Is that not right? Since you have freedom of religion shouldn't you be aloud to build a church where ever you want? I think it is violating your freedom of religion and you should be aloud to built a religious place anywhere you want to. Unless there is a really important reason.

Freedom of Press:

Freedom of press generally means the freedom to express your opinion through the press or the public. Way back when if you but rude stuff about (for example) parliament on signs or in the news paper you could be put to death. But today thanks to the founding fathers you can publicly say anything you want. For example you are aloud to stand in front of the Capitol and shout mean things about the government officials. I think that is fine unless things start to get violent.

Freedom of Assembly:

The freedom of assembly means the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances. Back England still had control over the colonies England had the right to punish people if they got together in groups and talked badly about the government. Today you are aloud to do that thanks to the brave founding fathers. A modern example is if say a group of people got together and met and discussed the government officials in bad ways. Again I think that is fine as long as it doesn't get violent.

Hollywood, the Video Game Industry and the First Amendment

As part of his recent efforts to combat gun violence, President Obama signed an executive order that directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the "relationship between video games, media images and violence." The question is whether there should be additional limits on movies such as American Psycho and Natural Born Killers and video games such as Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto. Many people, including most recently the National Rifle Association, contend that such images and entertainment contribute to violence in society and should have greater restrictions placed on them. Others argue that the First Amendment prohibits such restrictions to speech and also that these images, games and movies are shown around the world but that gun violence is unique to the United States. For example, in 2011, the Supreme Court rejected a California law banning the sale of violent video games to children. The Court found that video games, like other media, are protected by the First Amendment. I personally think they should not ban video games, or media images with violence, because it would violate First Amendment rights. Instead of a ban, I think the rating system should be strengthened and technology like parental controls should be enhanced to give parents more information and control over what children watch.

The Second Constitutional Amendment

Bearing Arms

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.
The Second Amendment was intended originally to prevent the national government from repeating actions that the British took. Before the revolution, the British tried to take away the weapons from the colonial militia. This seems to support the right or owning weapons, but it doesn't prevent Congress from regulating the interstate sale of weapons. But the Court has not yet incorporated it into state law. Even though states constitutions guarantee the right to keep and bear arms.
The Founding Fathers most likely included the Second Amendment so that the citizens of the United States would always have arms and be ready to come to the defense of the country if needed. Also, since the view was that the function of the government was to protect the rights and freedoms of the people, the Founding Fathers recognized that if government failed in this responsibility, as Britain had, that they people should be able to take up arms in their defense and over throw the government. So the right to bear arms functioned to both protect the national government but also to hold it accountable.

New Action to Try to Limit and Ban the Sale and Ownership of Certain Guns

In response to the shootings in Connecticut, the President is attempting to pass the broadest gun control legislation in a generation. The President is trying to press Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, expand background checks and toughen gun-trafficking laws. Powerful organizations such as the National Rifle Association and other advocates of a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment are opposing the President's actions. My opinion is that limits on certain guns is acceptable, especially those that are designed for use in war to kill as many people as quickly as possible. The average person does not need to own that type of gun. More importantly, however, I think that background checks should be strengthened to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.