We've known for some time that the American Constitution, that yellowed document containing all our inalienable and God-given rights, was a special slip of parchment. The first of its kind, we've been told. The example. The lodestar. The exceptional.
But recent research, publicized last week in Bloomberg, has helped shed light on how truly exceptional our founding document remains. Through the work of University of Texas Government Associate Professor Zachary Elkins and a pair of colleagues, we now know that the United States Constitution is one of only three national constitutions, out of approximately 200 extant, that guarantees the right to a personal firearm.
"For some, this lonely position is enough to suggest that the U.S. should rethink the current interpretation of the Second Amendment," Elkins and his team wrote. "For others, it is a reason to celebrate American exceptionalism."
Joined by Mexico and Guatemala, America's guarantee of self-armament is a relic from an era bygone. That's neither to question its validity nor its usefulness -- an exegetical debate of the Second Amendment will be continue as long as the right exists -- but, rather, to show how remarkably unique the right remains.
Consider: In addition to Mexico and Guatemala, six other nations have ever enshrined the right to bear arms within their nations. Those six other countries, however, have since rescinded such rights, with the likes of Costa Rica and Bolivia returning to the despotic nether-hole they once knew. (The only non-New World nation to have ever promised such a right in its constitution is Liberia, which, since its erasure, has turned into an autocratic inferno whose female president recently won the Nobel Peace Price. Tyranny!)
"I wouldn't have been surprised if [the right to bear arms] were kind of lodged deeply into even more Latin American constitutions, so I guess I'm a little surprised," Elkins, who had previously helped pen a book on the endurance of constitutions, told Hair Balls. "But of course, understanding this right the way it is, I can't be that surprised. Once a right appears, it generally increases in popularity. This [right] really bucks that trend." Elkins, who has been poring through historical constitutions for the past eight years, said he had recently turned his sights to gun rights due to the recent massacre at Sandy Hook. He said he's noticed a recent uptick in firearm interests among political scientists, but that no one had yet surveyed the holistic historical precedent as he and his team recently attempted.
With the oldest continuous constitution, its obvious certain anachronisms would remain. (Hey there, three-fifths clause!) And while he lets his research exist on its own right, Elkins notes that any hypothetical upgrade among our founding documents would likely cast a hard light on the right to bear arms.
"I think the most important point is this: There are consequences of living with a constitution that's written 200 years ago," Elkins told Hair Balls. "I like to think of the right to health together with the right to bear arms -- our constitution has one but not the other, and were it written today, it actually would likely be reversed."
But, barring some legislative shift, such a rewrite is less likely than Ted Cruz understanding the true definitions of "communism." And so we'll have this right -- this unalienable treat, this God-given gift -- for as long as we retain our citizenship. We'll live with the consequences, and we'll live with the discourse. And the 200-odd other countries will trundle forward with constitutions modernized and salient and logical. They'll simply have to deal with the tyranny smothering their citizenry as best they can, while American and Mexico and Guatemala move through the night as well-strapped cities on Freedom's Hill.
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