Purist libertarians and conservatives frequently remark that many of today’s Federal laws are ‘unconstitutional’. But just how credible are these claims? If we were to believe libertarian extremists, we’d have to eliminate 90% of the federal government, from the CIA and NSA, to the departments of energy and education. Can it really be that most of our federal laws are prohibited by an archaic document written hundreds of years ago? As it turns out, most constitutional scholars agree that these claims of unconstitutionality are mostly invalid.
The US constitution was written over 200 years ago, during a time when technology was primitive, people were far more self sufficient, and owning a gun for hunting and defense of property was somewhat necessary. Today, however, America would be unrecognizable to our founding fathers. We now live in highly developed urban areas, and even those of us who live in the country have access to modern technology such as cell phones and computers. Modern telecommunications allow us to instantly summon a sophisticated police force to handle altercations and criminal offenses, making personal firearm ownership largely redundant. The term ‘firearms’ now applies to weapons of mass destruction that the founding fathers never could have conceived of, making the second amendment a rather unreasonble law in today’s times.
The fact is, the constitution was written for a time so different from today, that very few of its amendments still make sense. ‘Freedom of speech’ now includes the right to disseminate vile hate speech to millions of people over the internet, ‘search warrants’ prevent our NSA from monitoring the population for potential terror threats, and ‘trials’ and ‘juries’ allow criminals and terrorists to hire lawyers and escape justice.
Modern constitutional scholars almost unanimously agree that the constitution is a living document, to be interpreted in a manner appropriate to modern times. It is not to be taken literally, as if we still live in an agrarian wild west. President Obama is a constitutional scholar himself, and thus understands the amendments and how they fit into the modern world. There is no reason to let an ancient document prevent us from implementing common sense gun controls laws, or provide healthcare for the uninsured. The fact is, we are living in the 21st century, and rigidly interpreting a document that was written for a bygone era only promises to keep us in the past, while the rest of the world moves forward.