DAA Daily

What is happening to the first two Amendments of the US constitution?

A billboard in front of the Saint Paul, Minnesota skyline is graffitied with "Kill The NRA" (National Rifle Association) on a winter morning.

The Pawprint

Legislation has been passed in various states in the US that goes against The First Amendment and therefore unconstitutional. It calls punishing any American that dares to go against the economic interest of Israel. There is no such law prohibiting American citizens from boycotting the U.S. as freedom of expression is protected under the first amendment. Why should this not apply to Israel?

At a federal level, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a bill that would criminalise adherence to any boycott of Israel charged for by an international power (the United Nations, for instance) has been enacted. More worrying than this, a teacher in Texas, who is said to have been working there for nine years, was rendered unemployed for refusing to sign pro-Israel documentation.

An employee contract essentially stating that she must never boycott Israel or take action that in any way penalises the country economically. This is not some obscure law that is rarely implemented.

It is an Israeli loyalty oath law that is becoming so common having been executed in several regions in America. Twenty-six states have enacted this legislation, and thirteen are yet to do so. Only eleven states allow for you to criticise Israel freely, while there is no such law forbidding citizens from boycotting the United States, burning its flag, criticising the government, and so on.

This legislation indeed constitutes a threat to free speech as there is now censorship being applied to the law that prohibits certain speech and forms of expression.

Ironically the 2nd Amendment is alive and well, as the National Rifle Association (NRA) is America’s oldest ‘civil rights’ organisation and the country’s most influential political lobby group. It is renowned for spending large amounts of money on lobbying to defend the US Constitution, and in particular, the second amendment.

In 1975, the NRA took on a more administrative role “recognising the critical need for political defence of the Second Amendment” – or the constitutional right of the public to bear arms. With that, the NRA started to influence policy around guns significantly.

Since 1975, it has grown into extensive dominance in US politics, as its lobbying arm works vigorously to pass pro-gun reform legislation. This appeals particularly to politicians who advocate highly for the ownership of weaponry as a means of self-defence.

The mass of school shootings in the United States though has threatened the conception that weapons should be so easily accessible by the general public. Consequently, the NRA is more highly supporting of Republican candidates as typically, they are more prominent patrons of the second amendment, where gun control has become a more prominent campaign focus amongst Democrats.

To emphasise their power, the NRA exert influence over elected officials by releasing a public grade of politicians on their attitudes on gun rights (Donald Trump has an A+ ranking, and Barack Obama was at an F during his presidency). Moreover, more Republican candidates, inclusive of Donald J. Trump are members of the NRA, and during his presidential campaign, he received $30 million from the organisation as a means of support.

Experts told SBS that the association’s annual budget is 250 million dollars, and between 2000 and 2010 it spent 15 times as much on campaign contributions as gun control advocates. As a result, the NRA has influenced the outcome of state, local, and national elections, and, in 1994, President Clinton attributed the Republican Party takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives to the NRA’s vast influence.

This goes to show just how powerful they are within their industry, as well as in Congress. The U.S. Congress is the world’s longest running and most powerful democratic legislature.

Congress is arguably the centre of American national politics and has the power to alter many of the rules that determine the winners and losers of presidential candidates. Recognising the power that lobby groups like the NRA have in Congress is futile, as the general public is made to believe that they are solely responsible for the outcome of Election day.

This is not the case.

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