The Peoples Guide to the United States Constitution, Revised Edition
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The crux of the debate is whether the amendment protects the right of private individuals to keep and bear arms, or whether it instead protects a collective right that should be exercised only through formal militia units. They argue that the right to bear arms should be given only to organized groups, like the National Guard, a reserve military force that replaced the state militias after the Civil War. On the other side are those who argue that the Second Amendment gives all citizens, not just militias, the right to own guns in order to protect themselves.
The National Rifle Association NRA , founded in , and its supporters have been the most visible proponents of this argument, and have pursued a vigorous campaign against gun control measures at the local, state and federal levels. Those who support stricter gun control legislation have argued that limits are necessary on gun ownership, including who can own them, where they can be carried and what type of guns should be available for purchase.
Congress passed one of the most high-profile federal gun control efforts, the so-called Brady Bill , in the s, largely thanks to the efforts of former White House Press Secretary James S.
Brady, who had been shot in the head during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in Since the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which mandated background checks for gun purchases from licensed dealers, the debate on gun control has changed dramatically. This is partially due to the actions of the Supreme Court , which departed from its past stance on the Second Amendment with its verdicts in two major cases, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago For a long time, the federal judiciary held the opinion that the Second Amendment remained among the few provisions of the Bill of Rights that did not fall under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment , which would thereby apply its limitations to state governments.
For example, in the case Presser v. But in its decision in District of Columbia v. Heller , which invalidated a federal law barring nearly all civilians from possessing guns in the District of Columbia, the Supreme Court extended Second Amendment protection to individuals in federal non-state enclaves. Two years later, in McDonald v. Chicago , the Supreme Court struck down also in a decision a similar citywide handgun ban, ruling that the Second Amendment applies to the states as well as to the federal government. Since that verdict, as lower courts battle back and forth on cases involving such restrictions, the public debate over Second Amendment rights and gun control remains very much open, even as mass shootings became an increasingly frequent occurrence in American life.
To take just two recent examples, the Sandy Hook shooting of 18 children and two adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut , led President Barack Obama and many others to call for tighter background checks and a renewed ban on assault weapons. And in , the mass shooting of 58 people attending a country music concert in Las Vegas to date the largest mass shooting in U.
On the other side of the ongoing debate of gun control measures are the NRA and other gun rights supporters, powerful and vocal groups that views such restrictions as an unacceptable violation of their Second Amendment rights. Jack Rakove, ed. If conflicting measures are approved at the same election, then the provisions of the measure receiving the highest affirmative vote shall prevail. Both the initiative and the referendum process are methods of direct democracy. H36 The ballot propositions "are proposed either by the Legislature or by citizens.
Propositions from the Legislature are adopted like other legislative measures. This article explains the ballot measure process with information on locating documents, legislative history and legal challenges to ballot measures. Research tools and publication annotations are provided in appendices. The annotated formats provide supplemental notes, historical materials, case law and encyclopedia references to assist in explaining the text of the Constitution. Information on the California Constitutional Conventions of and can be found in the following locations:. Georgetown Law Library Guides U.
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Search this Guide Search. Constitution California has had two Constitutions. To convene a constitutional convention also requires a roll call vote in the Legislature with two-thirds of each house's membership concurring.
The electors may amend the Constitution by initiative. If the signature requirements are met, the initiative shall then be placed on the next general election ballot held at least days after its qualification or at any special statewide election held prior to that general election. H36 "the people of California may directly add, repeal, or amend provisions of the California Constitution or statutes," through ballot propositions. D4 C Madison and a young lawyer from New York named Alexander Hamilton issued a report on the meeting in Annapolis, calling upon Congress to summon delegates of all of the states to meet for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.
Although the report was widely viewed as a usurpation of congressional authority, the Congress did issue a formal call to the states for a convention. To Madison it represented the supreme chance to reverse the country's trend.
And as the delegations gathered in Philadelphia, its importance was not lost to others. May God Grant that we may be able to gratify them, by establishing a wise and just Government.
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Seventy-four delegates were appointed to the convention, of which 55 actually attended sessions. Rhode Island was the only state that refused to send delegates. Dominated by men wedded to paper currency, low taxes, and popular government, Rhode Island's leaders refused to participate in what they saw as a conspiracy to overthrow the established government. Other Americans also had their suspicions.
Patrick Henry, of the flowing red Glasgow cloak and the magnetic oratory, refused to attend, declaring he "smelt a rat. Henry along with many other political leaders, believed that the state governments offered the chief protection for personal liberties.
He was determined not to lend a hand to any proceeding that seemed to pose a threat to that protection. With Henry absent, with such towering figures as Jefferson and Adams abroad on foreign missions, and with John Jay in New York at the Foreign Office, the convention was without some of the country's major political leaders. It was, nevertheless, an impressive assemblage.
Franklin was the oldest member and Jonathan Dayton, the year-old delegate from New Jersey was the youngest. The average age was Most of the delegates had studied law, had served in colonial or state legislatures, or had been in the Congress. Well versed in philosophical theories of government advanced by such philosophers as James Harrington, John Locke, and Montesquieu, profiting from experience gained in state politics, the delegates composed an exceptional body, one that left a remarkably learned record of debate.
Fortunately we have a relatively complete record of the proceedings, thanks to the indefatigable James Madison. Day after day, the Virginian sat in front of the presiding officer, compiling notes of the debates, not missing a single day or a single major speech. He later remarked that his self-confinement in the hall, which was often oppressively hot in the Philadelphia summer, almost killed him. The sessions of the convention were held in secret--no reporters or visitors were permitted. Although many of the naturally loquacious members were prodded in the pubs and on the streets, most remained surprisingly discreet.
To those suspicious of the convention, the curtain of secrecy only served to confirm their anxieties. Luther Martin of Maryland later charged that the conspiracy in Philadelphia needed a quiet breeding ground. Thomas Jefferson wrote John Adams from Paris, "I am sorry they began their deliberations by so abominable a precedent as that of tying up the tongues of their members.
On Tuesday morning, May 29, Edmund Randolph, the tall, year- old governor of Virginia, opened the debate with a long speech decrying the evils that had befallen the country under the Articles of Confederation and stressing the need for creating a strong national government. Randolph then outlined a broad plan that he and his Virginia compatriots had, through long sessions at the Indian Queen tavern, put together in the days preceding the convention. James Madison had such a plan on his mind for years.
The proposed government had three branches--legislative, executive, and judicial--each branch structured to check the other. Highly centralized, the government would have veto power over laws enacted by state legislatures.
The plan, Randolph confessed, "meant a strong consolidated union in which the idea of states should be nearly annihilated. The introduction of the so-called Virginia Plan at the beginning of the convention was a tactical coup. The Virginians had forced the debate into their own frame of reference and in their own terms. For 10 days the members of the convention discussed the sweeping and, to many delegates, startling Virginia resolutions.
The critical issue, described succinctly by Gouverneur Morris on May 30, was the distinction between a federation and a national government, the "former being a mere compact resting on the good faith of the parties; the latter having a compleat and compulsive operation. This nationalist position revolted many delegates who cringed at the vision of a central government swallowing state sovereignty. On June 13 delegates from smaller states rallied around proposals offered by New Jersey delegate William Paterson.
Railing against efforts to throw the states into "hotchpot," Paterson proposed a "union of the States merely federal. It also provided that acts of Congress and ratified treaties be "the supreme law of the States. For 3 days the convention debated Paterson's plan, finally voting for rejection. With the defeat of the New Jersey resolutions, the convention was moving toward creation of a new government, much to the dismay of many small-state delegates. The nationalists, led by Madison, appeared to have the proceedings in their grip.
In addition, they were able to persuade the members that any new constitution should be ratified through conventions of the people and not by the Congress and the state legislatures- -another tactical coup. Madison and his allies believed that the constitution they had in mind would likely be scuttled in the legislatures, where many state political leaders stood to lose power. The nationalists wanted to bring the issue before "the people," where ratification was more likely. On June 18 called the British government "the best in the world" and proposed a model strikingly similar. The erudite New Yorker, however, later became one of the most ardent spokesmen for the new Constitution.
On June 18 Alexander Hamilton presented his own ideal plan of government. Erudite and polished, the speech, nevertheless, failed to win a following. It went too far. Calling the British government "the best in the world," Hamilton proposed a model strikingly similar an executive to serve during good behavior or life with veto power over all laws; a senate with members serving during good behavior; the legislature to have power to pass "all laws whatsoever.
Some members of the convention fully expected the country to turn in this direction.
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Hugh Williamson of North Carolina, a wealthy physician, declared that it was "pretty certain. Alexander Hamilton on June 18 called the British government "the best in the world" and proposed a model strikingly similar. Strongly militating against any serious attempt to establish monarchy was the enmity so prevalent in the revolutionary period toward royalty and the privileged classes. Some state constitutions had even prohibited titles of nobility.
In the same year as the Philadelphia convention, Royall Tyler, a revolutionary war veteran, in his play The Contract, gave his own jaundiced view of the upper classes:. Exult each patriot heart!