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There are few more polarizing topics in American political discourse than guns and abortion. Both have featured prominently in the news recently, following the tragic Las Vegas shootings and the House’s new 20-week abortion ban. The Left and Right use guns and abortion as either a cause to rally around, or as a target to destroy. But the Left is often hypocritical in its theory of rights, where they come from, how they are enshrined in law, and how they can and should be advocated for or protected in the political process.
The debate around guns and abortion often revolves around how they should be regulated on the state level. While my evidence is anecdotal, I believe that the vast majority of Americans do not understand how fundamental rights have been enforced throughout American history as they relate to state action. It’s important to understand this history, and how we got where we are, when evaluating the differing view of rights across the political spectrum.
Bill - Rights - Government - States - Example
In 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified and enacted, it was applicable to the federal government but not to the states. For example: states still had the ability create an established church and fund it with tax money, and many states did just that well into the 1800s. The First Amendment was inapplicable. Similarly, states could outlaw firearms if they so desired and their state constitution allowed it. The Second Amendment was inapplicable.
In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified and this balance of federalism was altered. The reason for this amendment, of course, was to combat the grave injustices that states would continue to allow against former slaves, their descendants, and other minority groups. Through subsequent Supreme Court cases, the Bill of Rights was applied against the states so that state governments could not deny...
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