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Gun Control
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Americans are faced with an ever-growing problem of violence. Our streets have become a battleground where the elderly are beaten for their social security checks, where terrified women are viciously attacked and raped, where teen-age gangsters shoot it out for a patch of turf to sell their illegal drugs, and where innocent children are caught daily in the crossfire of drive-by shootings. We cannot ignore the damage that these criminals are doing to our society, and we must take actions to stop these horrors. However, the effort by some misguided individuals to eliminate the legal ownership of firearms does not...
people who respect the law itself, the people who would only use firearms for legal purposes anyway. And when we give people the right to defend themselves, we find that criminals start looking for other victims out of fear that they will become the victims themselves. We must work to reduce crime in America, but we should look at the problem realistically, and develop plans that would be effective. It is obvious that gun control laws are neither realistic, nor effective in reducing crime. Therefore, we must direct our efforts toward controlling crime, not controlling legal ownership of firearms.
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The Firearms Act 1996 Vic. was...The Firearms Act 1996 Vic. was passed by the Victorian Parliament on October 31st 1996 in accordance with the National Agreement on Firearms which aimed to create uniform gun laws Australia wide. The Act repealed the Firearms Act 1958 Vic. and the Firearms Act Amendment 1983 Vic. and established prohibitions on certain people and guns. Under the Act, a 'prohibited person' was defined as anyone who had served a jail term for an indictable, assault or drug related offence or subject to a domestic violence intervention order. New categories for guns were created and gun owners had to pass certain requirements and demonstrate genuine reason for owning a firearm as well as provide appropriate storage for the weapon. Strict fines and jail sentences were established for offenders, but owners of newly prohibited guns were able to surrender their weapons and receive compensated under the national guns amnesty. Categories C and D guns including semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and pump-action shotguns were prohibited unless the applicant could prove a specific use for the weapon such as professional farming or hunting and that Category A or B weapons was insufficient. Category E included machine, teargas and shot guns and rifles shorter than 75cm. Category E license applicants had to prove the firearm was required for police or military duties. Handguns, were classified in their own category and had tighter requirements for ownership. The reasons behind the change in gun laws were both social and political. Between 1987 and 1996, 136 people were killed in gun massacres alone. After the Hoddle and Queen Street massacres of 1987, great public concern arose and the Victorian premier tried to tighten gun laws. The Strathfield massacre of 1991 intensified the debate in Sydney and subsequently importation of semi-automatic weapons was banned nationally. As Australia became more urbanised, 90% of the nation realised the need for stricter gun laws to assure their safety and security by restricting the availability of high powered weapons and banning convicted criminals and domestic violence offenders from owning guns. In 1996 the Australian Institute of Criminology found that the majority of people killed with guns were killed in states with relaxed gun laws. Furthermore, gun deaths dropped 30% after tougher Victorian gun laws were introduced in 1987. People saw this correlation between stricter gun laws and fewer gun related deaths, exemplified by the Port Arthur massacre where Bryant was able to own a military-style semi-automatic rifle without a licence, and pushed hard for tougher gun laws and longer sentences for offenders. Fear of an Australian gun culture was also of concern, with one in six households owning at least one gun, almost double in rural areas; one of the highest gun ownership rates in the western world. Society as a whole found this unacceptable and pushed to ensure that only those with genuine reason could access to guns. The Port Arthur massacre acted as a catalyst for change , causing public concern and outrage. However, the choice to change the law was chiefly a political decision. Despite the extreme public pressure, the change in law occurred because the government of the time recognised the need for uniform change. After people recognised the need for a formal change in the gun laws nation-wide, the issue was extensively debated. Individuals and pressure groups with opposing opinions, views and demands of the Government argued their reasons in public meetings, demonstrations and the media. Prime Minister John Howard took swift political action after the massacre, pushing for "a total ban throughout Australia on all automatic and semi-automatic weapons" and promptly calling a meeting of all Police Ministers, who unanimously backed the National Agreement on Firearms. He attributed the Port Arthur massacre to the lack of national uniformity and the weakness of gun laws in some states, and called for a national gun register and prohibitions on certain people. The Sporting Shooters' Association of Australia played an important role in opposing most of the Government's views and fought any further restrictions on their access to firearms, which it felt "treated [sporting shooters] as potential criminals rather than ordinary and responsible citizens". It claimed "the proclamation of the act had more to do with"¦ publicity"¦ than with good government" and it was a "disastrous, disgraceful mistake". It said "World Health Organisation figures show[ed] there was no relation between lawful gun ownership and gun crime" and that "legal access to guns is not reflected in gun misuse". Furthermore, it claimed that if gun laws were tightened, criminals would resort to different weapons, and that guns would be pushed onto the black market where government control would be impossible. Martin Bryant himself was important in the change in the law through the fact that he was able to own a semi-automatic weapon without a shooter's licence; showing the weakness of the previous gun laws. Furthermore, if the Port Arthur massacre had not been happened, the flaws of the old gun laws would not have been exposed and the Australian people would not have had solid reason to rally for tougher laws. Graham Campbell formed the Australia First Reform Party to represent the views of the pro-gun lobby in federal parliament. He claimed that further gun restrictions would attack citizens' basic freedoms, be inconvenient for rural communities and make Australia vulnerable to outside attack. Walter Mikac, a survivor of the Port Arthur massacre in which his wife and two children were killed, rallied heavily for tougher gun laws. "Deliver to us uniform laws that will give our children the best possible chance to live without fear of someone having access to violent power that can maim and kill", he said at his family's funeral. He wrote numerous newspaper and magazine articles, did many interviews and spoke at numerous rallies, relentlessly pushing for tougher gun laws. The Shooters' Party chairman Neville Sayers also spoke out against the new laws in newspapers, interviews and at rallies. He felt the Government acted "hysterically" after the Port Arthur massacre and "didn't bother to cool off" before changing the law. He argued that tougher gun laws would strip "away important rights of honest shooters" and force the newly-illegal guns underground. Frank Carmody, a survivor of the Queen Street massacre, also rallied heavily for tougher gun laws, making public appearances and speaking to the media "“ "People are fed up with excuses. People don't want this sort of thing to happen again". Many other individuals and groups spoke out against tougher gun laws including the Victorian Paintball Operators Association, that claimed they would loose business to other states because the Act required paintball players to hold a Category A licence. Recreational shooters were also against the change, which meant that they would only be able to shoot at approved shooting ranges. The Australian Institute of Criminology's 1996 report on guns was widely distributed, playing an important role in support of the change. It concluded that 7.3% of all injury deaths were firearm related and that most firearm deaths were suicides. These important statistics supported claims from groups such as the Human Rights and Responsibilities Commission and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare for stricter gun control. In the ten-year period building up to the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, various individuals and groups had demanded change in Victoria's firearms laws. After the Queen and Hoddle Street massacres of 1987, Premier John Cain tried to tighten Victorian gun laws to restrict the use of semi-automatic weapons in response to the wide public outcry. In 1988, Prime Minister Bob Hawke established the National Committee on Violence in response to public concerns over the growing number of firearms and weak state laws. The committee achieved little prior to the 1991 Strathfield massacre, when it convinced the Federal Government to ban the importation of military-style semi-automatic weapons. Federal and State Governments responded effectively and promptly to the strong call for stricter gun control from almost all Australians after the Port Arthur massacre. Only 12 days after the massacre, Prime Minister Howard called the historic Police Ministers meeting to discuss tougher uniform gun laws and create the important National Agreement on Firearms. This agreement aimed to remove "dangerous firearms from our community and"¦ [establish] uniform registration and licensing together with the introduction of comprehensive conditions for firearms ownership". The Victorian Government responded to the strong gun control lobby, fuelled by the outrage of Port Arthur, emotional cries from Walter Mikac and demands from groups like Gun Control Australia. Victoria was the first state to respond to nation-wide calls for stricter gun control. , including the public view "possession, use, acquisition and disposal of firearms are conditional on the need to ensure public safety and peace by establishing a system of licensing and regulat[ion]" in the act. The Victorian parliament responded competently to public demands by complying with all parts of the National Agreement on Firearms, including the 'genuine reason' aspect contested by Queensland and Western Australia as a result of strong public demands for guns to be only available where absolutely necessary. Gun law reform reflected the existing values of the majority of the community and also attempted to generate new values through the new laws and stringent penalties. The value that everyone is entitled to live in a safe environment was reflected generally in the Act. Specifically, it reinforced this value through the gun buy-back scheme by removing dangerous guns from the community, the prohibited persons category by taking guns from potential criminals and different licence categories by ensuring that people only had access to the firearms they were licensed to use. The belief that access to guns should be restricted to only those with 'genuine need' was reflected through the Act and was a primary element to be established before a licence could be issued. The Act further enforces this value by deciding "that personal protection not be regarded as genuine reason for owning, possessing or using a firearm". The community value that preservation of human life is of paramount importance was strongly reflected in the Act by prohibiting certain groups of people from owning guns. The Act prohibited criminals convicted for indictable, assault or drug related offences from owning firearms for specified periods of time depending on their conviction. Those subject to domestic violence intervention orders were also prohibited because of the high correlation between domestic violence and gun deaths. Despite the inclusion of most common social values, some particularly those held by the anti gun control lobby were excluded from the Act. Shooters claimed that the most important right was their supposed 'right to bear arms'. However, Australians have never been guaranteed this right, and this belief was enforced in the Act through the 'genuine need' aspect of licensing. Through the Firearms Act, the Government also tried to generate new values as most people respect the law and government and incorporated the new laws into their values, reinforcing the value that society should be free from dangerous firearms. Harsher penalties for firearm offenders reinforced the opinion that people should only have access to the guns they require. The Act also encouraged a higher public regard for the law through creating reasonable sanctions. The Firearms Act 1996 Vic. impacted positively and negatively on individuals, the legal system and society in general. The Act made the community safer and prevented an uncountable number of firearm deaths, but also restricted legitimate recreational shooters' access to firearms. The Act impacted heavily on the legal system because many people rejected the new laws and refused to surrender their newly-prohibited weapons. This forced law enforcement agencies to spend extra time and resources tracking down offenders, causing extra expense to the community and giving the impression that people who disagreed with laws could simply disregard them. Many illegal firearms were siphoned on to the black market, where government control was impossible. The 'genuine reason' requirement for licensing stopped a US style 'gun culture' from developing in Australia, as only those who needed guns could access them. Paintball players and operators were also affected by the Act which required all players to hold a Category A shooter's licence. The added inconvenience of licensing stopped people from playing and subsequently, many paintball centres were forced to close. Many gun shops too were forced to close after the new laws were introduced, because tougher restrictions meant that fewer people had access to guns. Although the Firearms Act has impacted negatively on some parts of the community, as a whole, the Act exemplifies the views and beliefs of most people and has resulted in increased community safety.   

The Firearms Act 1996 Vic. was passed by the Victorian Parliament on October 31st 1996 in accordance with the National Agreement on Firearms which aimed to create uniform gun laws Australia wide. The Act repealed the Firearms Act 1958 Vic. and the Firearms Act Amendment 1983 Vic. and established prohibitions...

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The Constitution of Australia is a...The Constitution of Australia is a written document, which came into effect when the six colonies federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. It consists of eight chapters and 128 sections and lays down a set of laws or restraints by which the Federal Government must operate. It establishes the composition, procedures, functions, and powers of government, government authorities, such as the Governor General and other essential institutions. The Constitution is the basic framework for a civilised and well-governed Australia. However in the recent past, reason for parliamentary and federal concern has been thrust into the limelight. In addition, there has been a growing need for judicial interpretation and the ever-present reliance on convention. The Australian Constitution has several primary features. Such aspects include the preamble and covering clauses; Chapter one which establishes the Federal Parliament and the respective roles of each house; the Federal Executive Council and provisions for the Governor General are outlined in Chapter 2; Chapter 3 covers the Judiciary and establishes the role of the High Court; in Chapters 4 through 7 other issues of the constitution are founded, particularly those pertaining to the economy; and Constitutional change in outlined in Chapter 8. The preamble is an introductory statement that outlines the sources of authority and the mission, objectives and scope of the constitution. Chapter one states that Federal parliament shall consist of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives sect 1. The Senate is designed to act as a States house, while the House of Representatives performs as the Peoples House. Exclusive and residual powers are fore grounded and the procedure for overcoming conflict between the two houses is also outlined. Chapter 2 focuses primarily on the Federal Executive wing of government and the Governor General. Executive power is vested in the Governor General as the Head of State; there is no mention of the executive role of the Prime Minister. The composition and procedures of the Federal Executive Council are founded in this chapter also. The Judiciary are the chief concern of Chapter 3. In this the role and foundation of the High Court is inaugurated, as well as issues surrounding appeals to the Privy Council, dealt with. Chapters 4 through 7 are written in regard to the Australian economy and trading, preservation of the states and conditions by which a new state may be started. Chapter 8, the final chapter, describes the process by which the constitution may be changed. Despite the Constitution's role as the structure of Australian political procedure and indeed the very fabric of Australian society, in the past there have been reasons for federal and parliamentary concern. The growing number of Federal powers and the diminishing number of states powers, is of immense concern to the state parliaments. A great many Commonwealth powers, under section 51, are concurrent with those of the states, and it is by this that the Commonwealth has been able to extend its control. Section 109 states that if Commonwealth legislation conflicts with state legislation, the Commonwealth immediately takes precedence, thus encroaching on what was once state political territory. In recent years there has also been growing concern over the role and powers of the Senate. Under section 53 the Senate is not able to introduce or amend money or taxation legislation, these powers reside in the H of Reps alone. In all other aspects the Senate is on equal terms with the H of Reps. However the Senate can simply reject, defer or refuse to pass money bills. The implications of this are massive, without the Supply Bills, there is no money for government or the Public Service. The powers of the governor general have also caused some unease. In effect the constitution give the G-G the power to be government. The man/woman has the power to dissolve government, is the commander and chief of the armed forces, appoint members of the Federal Executive Council, appoint senior government officials, assent and with hold assent on legislation and appoint Justices of the High Court. Section 90 gives the Commonwealth government exclusive control over the collection of customs and excise. The controversy surrounding section 90 is concerned not so much with the power it gives the Commonwealth government but instead the restrictions it places on the state governments. The limited number of rights of the individual is of concern to the government as well as all Australian citizens. As citizens, we have only three constitutional rights and rely heavily on implied rights. There has been discussion as to whether a Bill of Rights should be included, much like that of the United States. Written Constitutions, such as the Australian one, are supplemented by conventions that help shape the formal operation of politics. Conventions are rules, not laws, and thus cannot be formally enforced. In Australia many of the common conventions have been adopted from the British Westminster system. A key and vital convention to the running of this country, is that of responsible government. This implies the basic rules of politics, such as the supremacy of parliament, the executive government must enjoy the majority in the lower house of parliament and the Head of State acts on the Prime Ministers advice. Conventionally the G-G does not exercise his powers, this to is also of extreme importance, for if he/she chose to disregard these conventions he/she could essentially be government dictator. Another convention concerns casual vacancies sect 15 where by people of the same party and faction should be sent to replace a dead or resigned senator. The Senate is also meant to pass all money bills without delay, however this too is only a convention. While conventions are vital to the running of the Australian political system, they do cause concern. An example of where conventions were being blatantly disregarded and a crisis occurred was in 1975. In 1974 the Liberal opposition refused to pass the supply bills in the senate, to counter-act this Whitlam requested a double dissolution. The ALP won the general election, with only one seat short of a majority in the Senate. However this situation changed in 1975 when two ALP vacancies occurred in the Senate. Rather than follow convention and send two ALP members to replace them, two Liberal-voting independents were sent. During 1975 there was a scandal surrounding the 'Loans Affair', which led to the dismissal of Cairns and Connor. Seeing that public opinion polls were favouring the opposition Liberal, Malcolm Fraser advised that the Senate defer the Supply Bill until a General Election was called. Whitlam refused, believing that some of the opposition would cross the floor. However on the 11th of November the Governor General dismissed the Gough Whitlam and appointed Malcolm Fraser as caretaker PM. Upon this the supply bills were immediately passed and a general election called. It was a landslide victory to the Coalition. Many conventions were broken in 1975. Supply bills should be passed in the senate unless faulty; the G-G acts on the advice of the PM; replacement senators should come from the same party; the PM should call a general election if the supply bill is not passed; and the PM should have the confidence of the majority of the H of Reps. Australia's heavy reliance on convention can lead to crisis as it did in 1975, this is a cause for concern in today's politics. The difficulty in changing the constitution is also of concern. To change the constitution 50% of the population must vote yes to the question put to them and then four of the six states must also say yes. This is the only method of change. Thus in order to change something, without as much difficulty, there has been growing popularity in the use of judicial interpretation. By "re-interpreting" the constitution it can become more applicable to today's society and thus serve the population of Australia better. While the constitution has served the people of Australia well in the past, it does have certain faults and by all means needs amending in some areas. Additions regarding such subjects, as Internet censorship and individuals rights would vastly improve this document, as well make it more applicable to the 21st Century. Amending undefined areas of "grey" would also diminish some of the confusion surrounding the Australian Constitution. As Sir Robert Menzies once said: "The Constitution is the organic law"¦it ought, in my mind, be expressed in language which is clear, simple and comprehensive."   

The Constitution of Australia is a written document, which came into effect when the six colonies federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. It consists of eight chapters and 128 sections and lays down a set of laws or restraints by which the Federal Government must operate. It...

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To what extent and why is...To what extent and why is the constitution very difficult to amend? The Constitution of the United States is highly unique and unlike many written constitutions, it has remained fundamentally unaltered since its ratification in 1789, and continues to exert itself as major source of authority on the political stage in the US. In effect, the first ten amendments were part of the original Constitution Settlement, thus in the last two hundred years there have been only seventeen amendments. Hence the question continuously arises amongst political academics as to why the Constitution has undergone such little significant change, and still is abided by even in today's highly converse political climate. The aim of this discussion will be to unearth the roots that hold the US Constitution so securely embedded into the soil of American political culture. I shall begin by briefly accounting for the construction of the Constitution and explain the necessary history that may fit into the argument in terms of explaining how the framers intended the document to be treated by future Americans, and what necessary precautions they took in avoiding an unfavourable future for the country. I shall then explore the document itself and try to find elements that make the Constitution difficult to amend, whilst looking at the actual amendments that have been undertaken since the original ratification of the document itself in 1789. I shall present the evidence discovered and relate it to the discussion continuously throughout the analysis and then follow up with a conclusion on whether the essay has sufficiently proven the difficulty of amending the Constitution and to what extent it might be so. I shall commence by providing an historical overlook of the how the Constitution was formed, as without this, a further probe into the question would leave the argument without foundation. It must be noted how different the environment the constitution was born out of was from so many Western counterparts who also have a written constitution. To start with, the American Revolution was different to any other significant revolution of late as by definition it was not a revolution at all. This was mainly because the majority of the citizens in the thirteen colonies called themselves "true born Englishmen" and simply defied the monarchical power exercised over them McKay, 2001. Already this highlights the potential difference of the basis of American culture from that of its European relatives, which will further show in later discussion of the Constitution's framework just how difficult the Constitution is to amend. Not only was it the strict monarchical power implementing stringent laws upon the colonists that caused them to react, it was also the rapid spread of ideas and influences of esteemed social contract theorists such as Locke and Rousseau. They promoted the idea that men possessed certain inalienable rights which fused effortlessly with the colonial spirit of independence and liberty. It was this along with the desire for a federal system, the lack of a central government that intervened heavily into the affairs of its people, and the notion of representation that became the driving force of adopting the Constitution. Five years after the Declaration of Independence was signed by Continental Congress in 1776, the colonists successfully fought off the British and under the Articles of Confederation adopted a new system of government. It was, however, nothing more than a formal recognition of Continental Congress McKay, 2001. It was believed by many other major players in the world stage that such a system that was lacking a real leader, and that was in essence quite weak, would not endure the imminent problems facing the new nation. In Philadelphia, in the summer of 1785, fifty-five delegates arrived with the task of attempting to create a constitution for the United States. A key issue in the framing of the Constitution was the system of representative government. It was widely accepted that a representative government bears the banner of majority rule, whilst subsequently implying the existence of limits to democracy. Many academics today believe that Founding Fathers' acceptance of this was a huge strain on the existence of a democratic government. They were not without reason, though, it was tyranny of the majority that they feared. An elective despotism was not the government we fought for... Thomas Jefferson Federalism was also high on the agenda for the Founding Fathers; they were aware also, of the risk of concentrating too much power in any one branch of government and thus the separation of powers ensured that this would never happen. A system of checks and balances would be introduced to further reinforce the ideas of federalism and the separation of powers; an example of which is where in order for a bill to be passed both houses must approve it, and furthermore the President can veto it. Congress can then override that veto if a two-thirds majority votes accordingly. This is a clear example of the intentions the framers had of causing difficulty in changing the laws of the newly created nation. It must be noted however, that not all of the states were in accordance of the Constitution; intense opposition was encountered from the other six states where the Anti-Federalists feared a "federal colossus" Spaeth, 1991. After the eventual ratification of the document, ten amendments were immediately implemented to fulfil the promise to the Anti-Federalists by the Federalists to ensure the Constitution was more democratic, which, once ratified by the states in 1791, became the Bill of Rights. These originate not only from English and Colonial experience, but also from political experience and thought from the revolutionary and confederation periods. From the framing process, it has become apparent how carefully the Founding Fathers were treading. Although no cast iron evidence demonstrating the difficulty of amending the Constitution has yet been discussed, I have illustrated the attitude the framers had at the time of and before creating the Constitution which I believe helps solidly pave the way towards the subsequent area of discussion. It is necessary first, to explain how the constitution may be formally amended. It is article V that lays out the formal amendment process and it dictates: The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on application of legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid"¦when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress The amendment process of the Constitution was intentionally rendered difficult. "Supermajorities" are what the Constitution effectively relies upon Ashbee, 1999. Ashbee explains that these supermajorities are a two thirds majority or a three fourths majority, unlike the conventional majority which can be anything over half the amount of the total. As the constitution has previously stated, an amendment must be proposed either by a two thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, or by a Constitutional Convention the likes of which has not happened since the actual framing of the constitution itself to which two thirds of the state legislatures would be required to convene. With a Constitutional Convention, however, there is the possibility that an entire restructuring of the government might occur. Cummings 1977 noted that Several Senators and legal scholars after the Republican Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois encouraged a Constitutional Convention to overturn the Supreme Court's "one person, one vote", believed that a Constitutional Convention could get out of hand and cause extensive changes in the construction of the federal government due to the fact that there is no standard for the agenda setting of a convention. This was also the case in 1985, when a convention to forbid the government from operating a deficit budget was 2 votes short. The framers, then, knowing possibly that this would be the most difficult method of Constitutional amendment, may well have felt that a serious change in government may sometimes be necessary, though it must be kept infrequent in order to maintain the stable government they had worked so hard for. After the proposal stage, the ratification stage needs to be completed in order for the amendment to be adopted by the constitution in full. To illustrate how difficult the ratification stage is to pass, the fact that other than the first ten amendments only 17 amendments have been ratified since the constitution itself was ratified over 215 years ago. To further reiterate the complex and stubborn nature of the amendment process, an amendment at ratification stage must then be approved by three fourths of the state legislatures in three fourths of the states, so an amendment can therefore be blocked by one fourth of the states plus one more, or thirteen states Dahl, 2002. After having investigated the formal amendment method stated in the Constitution itself, it has become evident that the Founding Fathers were clearly trying to avoid substantial changes being undertaken on the constitution. The method in which an amendment can be achieved somewhat guarantees that it is agreed to by a "supermajority" and as Congress at the time is not directly elected by the people is in theory a "qualified majority", thus ridding the framers of their fear of a tyranny by majority. The historical relevance of the Constitution, a detailed look into the actual amendment process as pointed out by the document itself and an insight into the reason why the Constitution was crafted the way it is have all been looked into in order that this discussion has created itself a strong grounding. I shall now begin to probe some of the arguments providing reasons as to why the Constitution is so difficult to amend. Firstly, the proposal of amendments has been a highly challenging task, the only method to date that has proven successful, has been that of receiving a two thirds majority from both the upper and lower houses of Congress. Hodder Williams 2003 believes the reason behind this is twofold. He explains firstly, that few years have existed in which any party have enjoyed a two thirds majority in both houses of Congress at the same time. Looking at the extremely close nature of the two-way party politics of the US political climate today, it is evident that this could never be a reality in the foreseeable future. The second reason that he believes may explain why the proposal of amendments have been so easily prevented is that American leaders of today feel that amendments should only be successful under very special circumstances. This historically proves sound, and within the success the Constitution has enjoyed is certainly a wise and prudent move from the leaders. However, as pointed out by Cummings 1977 earlier, a Constitutional Convention could lead to a mass reformation of the entire document, ridding it off all stability and could even perhaps lead to its downfall. A striking piece of evidence that solidifies the argument that the Constitution is difficult to amend is that of the highly disputed Equal Rights Amendment. Many academics McKay, 2002; Hodder-Williams, 2003; Ashbee 1999; Cummings 1977 have all used this as a tool to demonstrate the difficulty of formally amending the US Constitution. The Equal Rights Amendment states that: Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex This amendment was initially given a seven year time period in which to be extended which was eventually extended a further three years. After its extension, insufficient states ratified and the amendment eventually fell. This amendment fell, it is said, as it was feared that women may have to take up combat positions in battle. It was a mere three short of ratification. Perhaps another reason for the difficulty of amendment is the ambiguity of the document itself. It must be noted that McKay 2001 felt that in order for a constitution to be successful and durable, it must not be too precise. He continues: "No constitution can elaborate the precise relationship between institutions and political forces; if it attempts to do so, it runs the danger of being ignored". Thus, in order for a constitution to remain valued, a certain flexibility and openness to varying interpretations must be retained, and the language used in the document must be cautiously and shrewdly implemented. The flexibility of the Constitution although written, can be equally as flexible to that of the unwritten British constitution which has survived and remained the "law of the land" for centuries Hodder-Williams, 2003. Following the notion of ambiguity is the idea of reinterpretation. It is widely believed that the constitution has a very different meaning and a massively different impact than it did when it was first ratified. This is because of the continual development of American society and its economy, rather than the wording of the Constitution. A major player in this argument according to many critics is the Supreme Court. Hodder-Williams 2003 explains: The simple answer is that the justices of the Supreme Court, in the process of dealing with cases brought to them, refine the meanings of particular phrases and words in a way which affects the political structure or the rights of individuals, as the case may be. In article I, section 8, the Constitution indicates several policy areas in which the power of Congress is required to operate. The fact of the matter is some grants of power are all but precise and require an answer from the Supreme Court, whereas some require none due to their clarity. It must be noted at this stage that the Supreme Court is "the highest court deciding litigation generated by disputes over the meaning of the constitution" Hodder-Williams, 2003. This exemplifies the fact that the Constitution, although written, is still open to reinterpretation and this reinterpretation is ultimately the decision of the Supreme Court. Dahl 2002 claims: "¦the authority of the Supreme Court to overrule laws and policies that, in its view, violate the Constitution has become a widely accepted part of our unwritten constitution since 1803, when the Supreme Court first claimed that authority The first amendment of the constitution is another area that commentators discuss concerning the Constitution. In terms of its interpretation, the provisions of the first amendment have been treated by the Supreme Court as more fundamental than other parts. They have been considered by a few justices to be virtually absolute, construing the amendments language literally Spaeth, 1991. Hodder-Williams 2003 says that the first amendment of the constitution in being the exact definition of an individual's rights starts: "Congress shall make no law"¦", but the following eight amendments commence in all but the same way. These assertions of rights were generally held to be constraints on the much feared power of the new central government. The Supreme Court is likely to remain the unelected policy-making body that it has been since 1803 Dahl, 2002. The actual amendments to the Constitution must also be addressed, as these will provide an insight into what sort of amendments, if any, do actually pass. The aforementioned first amendment limits the action of government and recognises liberties. When examining the constitution, it is clear that voting is a key issue, the Constitution has been amended four times to accommodate for a more democratic system of voting. Generally summed up, these amendments incorporated for new votes in terms of race the fifteenth, women the nineteenth, citizens of Washington DC the twenty third and over eighteens the twenty sixth. Another issue taking up centre stage on the Constitutional amendment agenda was rights. The extension of civil rights by abolishing slavery the thirteenth amendment, and the assertion that all citizens were entitled to the equal protection of the laws the fourteenth amendment additionally reinforce the idea that furthering the democratic element of the Constitution is a good reason for amendment. As discussed earlier, it is extremely difficult to amend the constitution formally; hence this proves that the advancement of democracy and the extension of civil rights are areas where the Constitution is willing to accommodate change. Having examined these crucial facts and having reached this point of the discussion, I feel that a conclusion is necessary. I shall firstly say that we must first look at the fact that the Constitution has survived so long without the wording being changed as a significant player in the difficult of amending it. If the system that is in place is performing satisfactorily, then why is there any need to change it? The framers certainly created a well structured and well thought out system, but there are certain elements that they could not have foreseen. Thus, there are areas in the Constitution where they have allowed for a continuously changing society. However, it is only significant changes such as the abolition of slavery and the allowing of women to vote for example, that have been able to actually become ratified. Many of the less significant, but still important changes in modern society, have simply been informally changed and reinterpreted through the judgements of the Supreme Court. This has proven the somewhat flexible nature of the document. However, it is only flexible within certain ideological and political boundaries. The justices of the Supreme Court, being the body that makes the adjustments to the modern day are, the select few that there are, ultimately responsible for the interpretation of the Constitution outside the formal amendment process. The Constitution is to a great extent, difficult to amend formally, but previous discussion shows that the informal and flexible interpretation of the Constitution is to a less extent, difficult to amend. However successful the American Constitutional system, it is unique and was set up, after all, in the need change. The country itself was established in unique circumstances, and the American Constitution will remain to be unique next to those of other Western democracies. I shall finish this discussion Robert Dahl noted in Scialabba, 2002: Among the countries most comparable to the United States"¦and where democratic institutions have long existed without breakdown, not one has adopted our American Constitutional system.   

To what extent and why is the constitution very difficult to amend? The Constitution of the United States is highly unique and unlike many written constitutions, it has remained fundamentally unaltered since its ratification in 1789, and continues to exert itself as major source of authority on the political...

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