The 1st and 2nd Amendments were traditionally viewed as fundamental amendments which contributed to the development of the American democracy and American lifestyle at large. Today, these amendments are of the utmost importance due to the fact that they mainly deal with issues which many Americans believe to be essential in their social life as American citizens, namely the freedom of speech and the right to keep and bear arms. On the other hand, when the new threats to the national security of the USA arise, and when the crime rates are constantly growing, the attitude of Americans with regards to both amendments has started to change.
First of all, it should be said that the 1st Amendment is particularly important to US citizens because it ensures the freedom of speech, which is an essential condition of democracy. In fact, the 1st Amendment separates the state and religions, providing Americans with the possibility to worship any religion they like. At the same time, the state cannot support or oppress religion and it should not interfere in the religious lives of Americans in any way. In addition, the 1st Amendment pays particular attention to the freedom of speech and press. The 1st Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech and press, and allows citizens to assemble peacefully. These norms imply that Americans can use the civil action to openly declare their position concerning issues, which are important for them and for the entire nation (Irons, 1999). In other words, the 1st Amendment provides Americans with a tool of political influence on the policy-makers since, due to the freedom of speech and press, and people’s assembly, Americans can use the public pressure on politicians, forcing them to make decisions which Americans need at the moment. However, some specialists argue that the introduction of the Patriot Act of 2001, limited the freedom of speech consistently since law enforcement agencies got larger opportunities to search and seizure, including the search of private correspondence, such as e-mails (Irons, 1999).
As for the 2nd Amendment, its norms are severely criticized by many specialists (Dizard et al., 1999), but Americans traditionally believe that this amendment is essential for their personal security. To put it more precisely, the 2nd Amendment allows Americans to keep and bear arms and organize militia. In such a way, Americans are granted the opportunity to protect themselves from potential offenses and to maintain social order with the help of militia.
However, in actuality, both amendments provoke heated debates in the US society. The separation of church from state, granted by the 1st Amendment, leads to the total deregulation of the religious lives in the USA. As a result, there is a risk of emergence of radical religious movements which can have practices that threaten the lives and health of people, or violate existing norms of the USA. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the example of Mormons. The cases of polygamy were not rare in the Mormon community which naturally contradicted the legal norms of the USA. Nevertheless, state can have little impact on such religious movement and Mormonism cannot be totally banned, even though its practices contradict the legal norms of the USA. In fact, any attempts of the state to ban religious movements or limit their activities, confronts the problem of violating the 1st Amendment. In addition, the 1st Amendment admits the freedom of speech and press, but today, when the threat of international terrorism is real, some specialists (Irons, 1999) argue that it is necessary to regulate the work of media. For instance, it is possible to find examples when the state and law enforcement agencies attempted to limit activities of media, including newspapers. In addition, the government tends to control the media by means of censorship in order to avoid the spread of violence on television, and in other media, as well as other negative trends which challenge morality and threaten the psychological health of the nation.
The 2nd Amendment evokes even more severe debate. On the one hand, Americans want to feel secure and for this purpose they need weapons, the possession of which is sanctioned by the 2nd Amendment. On the other hand, the number of crimes committed in the USA with the use of weapons is constantly growing. (Dizard et al., 1999)
Moreover, there are numerous cases of accidental shootings when many people were injured or died. Also, it is worth mentioning, such tragic events as the Columbine shooting, which encourage the demands to restrict the sales of gun or ban the gun use in the USA. Hence, some specialists (Dizard, 1999) argue that it is necessary to ban the right to keep and bear weapons in the USA.
In such a context, it is important to avoid radical changes or the banning of the 1st and 2nd Amendments. What the US society needs is the regulation of the weapon market and the introduction of strict rules of sales and use of weapons. With regards to the 1st Amendment, the government needs to clearly distinguish the frontline between the government censorship and the protection of American citizens from negative impact of media.