Rights & Rule of Law
Drafted by James Madison and ratified in 1791, and informed by the Magna Carta (1215), English Bill of Rights (1689), English Common law, and Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), Madison crafted the Bill of Rights with a focus on the rights of the individual protected by and from the government, including criminal procedure protections and the right to bear arms. These protections demonstrate that the United States operates under the rule of law and not on the whims of a tyrant, and seeks to prevent abuse of power and discretion, as well as arbitrary decisions and detention.
The Federal Floor & Procedural Safeguards
Individuals in the United States are subject to federal and state laws, including criminal laws and restrictions including on gun ownership and possession. Provisions in the US Constitution, federal laws, and Supreme Court decisions interpreting and evaluating those provisions and law create a “federal floor,” where state laws must adopt the same protections these federal laws provide. States may provide more protections above this federal floor but they cannot provide less protections below this floor. For instance, New York law provides more procedural safeguards and protections than the federal government under the 6th amendment, including the right to counsel outside of criminal prosecutions and the accused’s attachment of counsel in a criminal matter, such that the indelible right to counsel cannot be waived without first conferring with counsel.
New York State Focus
From the Annenberg Classroom. This video discusses the history of guns in the United States and the contested meaning and interpretation of the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It describes relevant Supreme Court decisions, including New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen (2022). Here is a lesson plan to accompany this video.
From the Annenberg Classroom. This video examines the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures and the landmark Supreme Court decision in Mapp v. Ohio (1961), which held that evidence obtained in an illegal search and seizure could not be admitted in a criminal trial in a state court to be used against the accused. Here is a lesson plan to accompany this video.
From the Annenberg Classroom. This video discusses the origins of the Miranda warning “You have the right to remain silent …” and the landmark Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona (1966), which held that criminal suspects at the time of arrest must be informed of their Fifth Amendment and Sixth Amendment rights and protections prior to interrogation. Here is a lesson plan to accompany this video.