As Americans, our foundation is the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. It is often difficult to decide how to balance the liberties it grants with consequent impositions on the public safety and welfare.
The Second Amendment grants us the right to bear arms. Our courts and legislatures have taken an expansive view of this right. The result is 30,000 deaths by gunfire every year, mostly involving families and acquaintances. We have chosen to pay a steep price in safety for this liberty.
The First Amendment grants us freedom of speech and the Fourth Amendment grants freedom from unreasonable search by the government. Whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed programs where the National Security Agency monitors Internet and phone calls on a massive scale. A trillion metadata records were captured by 2012. You and I can be targeted at any time.
These electronic intrusions probably have helped suppress terrorist plots that would have killed Americans: 3, 30 or 300 people saved each year? Acts such as the Boston Marathon bombing occur once a decade, not every year or month. But for increased safety, our First and Fourth Amendment rights are trampled.
We must find a better balance. Can we intrude lightly on Second Amendment rights to reduce gun violence to 20,000 or 10,000 deaths annually? Can we reinvigorate our First and Fourth Amendment rights, even at risk of terrorist acts? Is a death by terrorist bomb really worth a thousand gun deaths in our communities?
We can never achieve a perfect society, but a more balanced approach to both problems seems possible.