The Future of the Bill of Rights
Can this top-ten list be saved?


LOPEZ: You write, “Every fourth grader knows the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of speech and of the press are fundamental liberties that were earned on the battlefield and later safeguarded within the Bill of Rights.” Are you so sure?

MINITER: Perhaps it’s wishful thinking to suppose that most Americans have, at the very least, a vague notion that once upon a time our independence was won on the battlefield, but please allow me a little wishful thinking. It is my last defense against cynicism.

LOPEZ: Why is the Second Amendment worth adamantly defending?

MINITER: The right to self-preservation is our most basic human birthright. From a purely practical point of view, it’s worth noting that in those hair-raising moments when a rapist, robber, or murderer comes for someone, no matter their political persuasion, they learn that Col. Samuel Colt wasn’t joking when he ran ads declaring, “God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal.” After all, though 911 is an important lifeline, 911 is no more real than good intentions until the police actually arrive. This is why I say that gun rights are also women’s rights. 

LOPEZ: “Understanding this period of history makes you realize how appalling it is that today’s inner-city and largely black neighborhoods, which often have the highest murder rates, have some of the strictest gun-control laws in the nation. Honest people in those neighborhoods are barred from defending themselves just as southern blacks once were.” Are you actually making your absolutism a civil-rights issue?

MINITER: Absolutism? Black codes were once used in the South, predominantly by Democrats, to disarm African Americans so Caucasians could more easily control people of color. George Mason, long remembered as the “Father of the U.S. Bill of Rights,” showed he understood this threat when he said, “To disarm the people, that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” After the American Civil War, Congress saw that blacks in the South still weren’t really free, so they decided that a constitutional amendment was necessary to provide full protection for them. In 2010, the conservative bloc on the Supreme Court noted this by writing in McDonald v. Chicago, a ruling that requires state and local governments to abide by the Second Amendment, that “it is generally accepted that the Fourteenth Amendment was understood to provide a constitutional basis for protecting the rights set out in the Civil Rights Act of 1866.”

With this history in mind, look around the country today and note which local governments have most infringed upon their citizens’ Second Amendment rights. You’ll soon see it is the Democratically controlled inner-city neighborhoods, areas with high percentages of minorities, that do the most to prevent law-abiding Americans from attaining firearms for personal defense. The result of these gun-control policies has been the creation of an unarmed class of victims for thugs to prey on. Yeah, that’s a civil-rights issue.   

LOPEZ: What does the recent rent-control debate in the New York statehouse have to do with the Bill of Rights?

MINITER: Property rights are protected by the Fifth Amendment. Economic takings through burdensome regulations, such as rent control, are Fifth Amendment infringements that require just compensation. The trouble is left-leaning justices have too often ruled that a complete taking is necessary before the government has to pay for property-rights infringements. But what really appalls me about New York rent control is how families, such as Jerrold and Ellen Ziman, are being treated. The Zimans moved to Manhattan and bought a townhouse. At the time the state’s rent-control laws said they could evict the tenants from their private property so they could turn the building into a home for their two kids. But after they purchased the property the state changed the law and the Zimans found that by law three men were allowed to occupy 80 percent of their home for life — at ridiculously low rent-control rates that barely put a dent in the Zimans’ mortgage. There are a lot of dramatic stories in this book that will make any freedom-loving American’s blood boil, but this one, oh this one will make blood shoot from your eyes.