Aylward: Constitution needs to catch up with technology

June 27, 2013 

Aylward

PICASA

— American citizens have been confronted with a pair of moral and legal conundrums that strike at the heart of the U.S. Constitution, raising questions about whether it still can be applied effectively in the face of technological advances in firearm manufacture and clandestine information gathering. More specifically, we have to decide whether the Second and Fourth amendments are viable in their current form.

The Fourth Amendment is being tested in the security vs. privacy debate that has erupted following revelations about how far-reaching the Obama administration’s surveillance of citizens’ private telephone and Internet communications has become. Many Americans are alarmed by the mere possibility that the federal government may be constructing a universal database that could be used by politicians to intimidate and/or persecute their political enemies. Many of these same critics seem to have overlooked the fact that private commercial enterprises such as Yahoo and Google have compiled their own extensive databases filled with very personal information about us — data they have been utilizing for years to increase sales and drive up profits.

Where do we draw the line when it comes to the secret collection and use of our private information by large and powerful organizations, both public and private? Perhaps it is time to consider some smart and selective changes in the wording of the Fourth Amendment to make it applicable to the digital age.

The same is true with gun control. The Second Amendment clearly has been left in the dust by the technological advances in firearm design since 1800. If we were still using single-shot muskets and dueling pistols, there would have been no massacres at Columbine, Aurora and Sandy Hook. In every one of those cases, the assailant would have been overpowered before he could get off more than one or two shots. The very serious problem of crazed mass murderers in our country is the direct result of two centuries of advances in gun manufacturing without any concomitant changes in the Constitution to address those advances and the problems they create.

To my mind, the only way to address this problem is to rewrite the Second Amendment with an eye toward the unimaginable (at least to our founding fathers) and enormous firepower and rapid-fire capabilities available in the firearms market, not to mention whatever new features are coming down the pike.

Ed Aylward

Columbia

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