General Question

lonesome-dog's avatar

Is there any attempt to revise the American constitution? Most nations have similar foundational documents, but revise them from time to time, why not the USA?

Asked by lonesome-dog (238points) 2 weeks ago

The US is the world’s premier pragmatic nation, yet it ties many needed reforms to a 240+years old document, and it’s difficult to fathom why. Has the document reached sacred status?

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33 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Revisions are called Amendments to the Constitution.

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, it is possible to revise(amend) the constitution. Amendments have been proposed 33 times, with 27 successfully ratified.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
lonesome-dog's avatar

Really? As I understand the constitution the process’s to agree to amending the document are so onerous that few are willing to try. That’s not exactly the way any nation would want to address the rush of history. I’ve read where the US could have avoided a civil war had there been a more pliant process.

I don’t know if that’s the case but I do suspect that a lot of grief in many areas would be diminished if an ongoing process of addressing today’s problems were in place.

Health care should not be in thrall to a 230 year old document, written when medical care included leeches, and other medical abominations.

And the big one of course is gun ownership: maybe it made sense when the local nasties and the Brits might just want to make life crappy for all, but not for now, where the damage done is coming from those we once sought to protect.

It should be understood by now that America is not a shining city on a hill, it’s a great nation, but one just as flawed as others. And I would say it’s in a rut.

seawulf575's avatar

The US Constitution gets amended from time to time. But really, why would it need to be? It is the foundation of our nation…the basic building blocks. Other laws address specifics. Example: The 14th Amendment extended the restrictions of the federal government denying any person life, liberty or property without due process (as guaranteed in the 5th amendment) to the states as well. But it was ratified in 1868 and as we all know, blacks were continued to be treated outside these laws for years to come. Women weren’t treated as equals to men for years either. It took the Civil Rights Act of 1963 to really spell out that the laws applied to ALL persons regardless of race, religion, sex, etc. But that law didn’t need to change the Constitution; the Constitution already laid down the groundwork…the basic views. The CRA just clarified what was already there.

JLoon's avatar

I’m gonna pretend this is a legal question – not political.

By one count over 600 new constitutions have been written by countries around the world since 1946. And the cold fact is, almost no modern democracy looks to the US as a model for constitutiolnal reform.

We suck when it comes to enacting meaningful changes that address the real problems Americans face in the world they live in now. The bullshit going on over the last election is just the latest example.
And the ammendment process only works when its jammed into a 240 year old straight jacket of legalism and wishful thinking.

We need to start over, but gutless and greedy politicians will fight back every step of the way.

filmfann's avatar

The Costitution was created and designed to adapt to changing times

JLoon's avatar

@filmfann – One of the few scraps that this corrupt system still hands out to average Americans is that everyone is free to have an opinion. So enjoy it.

But keep in mind that Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Washington, and Franklin would all disagree with you. None of them ever believed or intended that this constitution should remain unchanged.

kritiper's avatar

I agree with @filmfann . GA!

JLoon's avatar

@kritiper – Sweet. Join the Wishful Thinking Club. You get a T shirt, but you have to pay.

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

@JLoon I think you have misread @filmfann‘s response. He’s saying that the Constitution was designed to be changed, which is the same thing that you say the Founders intended.

JLoon's avatar

@filmfann @kritiper @JeSuisRickSpringfield – If I misread anyone here I apologize.

Feel free to misread me. Seems fair.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The most recent amendment was in 1992..

It has been amended 27 times since it’s inception.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s been amended to give women the right to vote, and then minorities the right to vote. So many amendments I don’t know where to start!

Zaku's avatar

Good thing they’re numbered. ;-)

SEKA's avatar

Our Constitution has treated us well for well over 200 years.I find it dangerous to start making changes willy nilly just because of a threat. In this case, our Constitution really did protect us as written.if we made changes every time we didn’t like something, trump would have screwed it up so fucking bad that we’d never get it straightened back out and he would have legally become our king. Of all those countries that you admire for updating their Constitution, did it even once make them any safer?

I feel that it is up to the people of any country to learn from times like these. We might not be so lucky next time, but I pray that even the most stubborn trump supporter learned something positive from the evil that the man attempted to do

lonesome-dog's avatar

I seems astonishing that with the near crippling political rage now in place that no one has even mentioned the constitution. Isn’t resolving problems one of the key functions of that document. When I’m told that the last amendment was in 1992 (and it dealt with a pay raise for, who else, members of congress) I’m more than baffled.

Any one of a dozen schoolyard shootings should have triggered Congress into action to change the gun laws. The present health care crisis equally requires action.

It seems that except for the very important issue of pay raises, nothing kicks the constitution into play. The most important nation on this earth has to do better than that.

kritiper's avatar

@211236 Change the gun laws?? You do realize the truth in the statement “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns?” As “there is more than one way to skin a cat,” there are more ways than with guns to kill people.

seawulf575's avatar

@211236 I have always wondered what law congress could pass that would actually stop criminals from breaking the law. There are already laws against carrying guns on school grounds in many places. There are laws against killing people everywhere. Just because there are laws doesn’t mean criminals are going to suddenly start following them. And all you would do is punish the millions of law abiding citizens out there. When you look at the statistics, the actual gun deaths (excluding suicide) caused by these law abiding citizens are very small. There are accidental shootings. There are shootings of passion. There are police shootings. There have been school shootings or other things like that (Pulse Nightclub, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, etc) but over all those aren’t the majority of the shootings. Yes, they are bad and yes they make big news…no argument there. But they are relatively small on the numbers of gun deaths. The majority of gun deaths (excluding suicides) are gang related. And gangs don’t follow the laws anyways. They break laws to get their guns. They break laws in carrying their guns. They break laws using their guns. And they know they are breaking the laws. So what law are you suddenly going to pass that they will say “well, gee. guess we need to give up our guns!”?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes we need to give up our guns and stop being a nation full of beer bellied red necks.

seawulf575's avatar

@Dutchess_III again…it isn’t the “beer bellied red necks” that are the problem. They aren’t the ones doing most of the killing. So let’s say you pass a law that says “Everyone must turn in their guns!”. And just for the sake of argument, let’s say that every law abiding citizen did just that. Do you believe the criminals would? Really?? Or would they be even more emboldened because they now know they have even more power?

lonesome-dog's avatar

Dozens of nations don’t allow either good citizens or bad ass’s to carry a gun, and they don’t have anyway near the crime that the US has. Could be no connection at all, or not.

In fact the second amendment had little to do with crime. As it was explained to me it was to make ready a ‘armed militia’ to discourage a despot from seizing power, or an invasion from succeeding. And will someone please tell me how ideas from the 1770s relate to anything today? What are you gonna do, pistol whip a cruise missile?

Tropical_Willie's avatar

NRA Claptrap @seawulf575. How long you been a member ?

kritiper's avatar

@211236 The US has a gun mentality, other nations do not, generally speaking. Big difference!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Huge difference.

seawulf575's avatar

@211236 Dozens of countries don’t allow either good citizens or bad asses to carry a gun, that is true. China, for instance, prevents private gun ownership, as does Venezuela. China still has gun murders, as does Venezuela. Cuba doesn’t prevent it, but no one can afford to buy a gun. But there are equally countries that allow much gun ownership. Take Iceland or Switzerland for instance. Iceland has about 33% of the homes owning a gun. Switzerland is closer to 28%. As a point of reference, in the US, we are somewhere between 32% and 44% (32% of people asked claimed to own at least one gun whereas 44% of people asked said they lived with someone that owned a gun). But Iceland hasn’t seen a firearm murder in a decade. Switzerland has a similar murder rate. So percentage-wise, they are fairly close to us in the number of households owning guns, yet they don’t have the crime we do. If you want to go the other way, you find Honduras which has lower percentage of gun ownership with 5x the gun murder rate compared to the US. So gun ownership isn’t the panacea.

seawulf575's avatar

@Tropical_Willie I am not an NRA member. Nor a member of any gun advocacy group. But it is interesting that you try to deflect with that. You seem to believe there is something wrong with NRA members. Kinda like @Dutchess_III‘s “beer bellied red necks”. Equally uninformed ideas about people.

janbb's avatar

This has gone of in a totally different direction but it might be pointed out that it takes ratification by ¾ of the states for an amendment, once proposed, to be added to the Constitution. For good for bad, it is not that easy a process.

seawulf575's avatar

I would like to see a Constitutional amendment that initiated term limits for representatives and senators.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@seawulf575 It is standard NRA boiler plate . . . “and only lawless will have guns”.

lonesome-dog's avatar

I see your points but your argument is all over the map. Let’s confine it to modern open democracies, where the facts are easily gotten. Iceland has less than 400,000 people total, that’s likely to skew just about everything, so Iceland’s out.

And the other examples you offered are equally questionable, Switzerland has a people’s army that requires all males and many females to own a long gun. On Venezuela, why bother throwing that unmeasurable mess of a nation into the mix, as for Cuba, they appear to be a quite safe place (read the non US press) and China, with a billion and a half answers to no one, and certainly gives out no statistics to be measured.

Try the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Australia and many others. There you’ll find that not only do they rate far below the US in gun crime, they are on watch that the American model is strenuously avoided. After local mass shootings Australia, the UK, Canada, Germany and others tightened up gun ownership by quite a bit. Their social scientists and simple common sense saw that ‘more guns, more shootings’ is obvious.

In the States after some terrible shootings the NRA, and a large segment of the Republican party, offered a few obscure and ambivalent quotes from some venerated Founder or other, then did nothing.

seawulf575's avatar

@Tropical_Willie And? Does that make the argument wrong? Does it make it bad? Or is it just not in line with the leftist dialogue?

seawulf575's avatar

@211236 The argument of gun ownership being the cause of the killings is the point. Just owning the gun will cause someone to want to kill seems to be the argument that we need to do away with all guns. So the number of people in a country should be insignificant. So trying to ignore Iceland isn’t an actual fair point. Ditto that for saying that Switzerland has a people’s army that requires people to own guns. First off, that is a falsehood…no one in Switzerland is “required” to own a gun. But even if they did, then owning the gun would make them want to kill. Again, that is what is being said when someone says getting rid of guns is the only way to stop the killing.
The facts are that there are about 33,000 gun deaths in the US each year. But about 24,000 of those are suicides. Guns make that expedient, but not a necessity. Those aren’t really murders. So we have about 9,000 gun deaths that aren’t suicides each year. Of those you have some that are police shootings, some that are accidental, etc. But the biggest chunk is gang related shootings which accounts for some 7,000 deaths each year. These are criminals. They don’t follow the laws. Passing more laws or making it harder for law abiding citizens to get a gun won’t stop these. There are 72 million gun owners in the US (at least according to Pew). I might say there are more. But these are the people that aren’t committing the gun deaths. In fact, if you take all the gun deaths that aren’t suicides or gang related and say that a separate gun owner committed each one, you only have 0.003% of gun owners committing murders. And I am throwing in the police shootings into that mix even though they aren’t officially murders for the most part.
So gun ownership is not the problem. If it were, we would have far more deaths than we do. We would be in the millions of shootings each year.

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