The political system - rights and responsibilities

The Constitution

Visual guide to how the us constitution is broken down

American citizens have written rights which are outlined in the US Constitution.

It is the oldest written Constitution in the world and is the supreme law of the land, and all citizens are subject to its provisions.

It is very difficult for anyone, president, politician or normal citizen to change the Constitution.

Constitution Amendments

The first ten Amendments of the Constitution protect all of the basic freedoms of all Americans and are known as The Bill of Rights. The two most famous are Amendments the first and second.

First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Americans believe that freedom of speech and expression are the lifeblood of any democracy. To debate and vote, to assemble and protest, to worship, to ensure justice for all - these all rely upon the unrestricted flow of speech and information. In his campaign to become President, Donald Trump exercised his right to freedom of speech. As outlined in this BBC News article, he claimed that Arab Americans cheered on the 9/11 attacks, despite a lack of evidence and that a "great, great wall" should be built between the US and Mexico.

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.

The window of Yae Old Gun Shop in Valencia, California
Yae Old Gun Shop in Valencia, California

This is the now controversial constitutional amendment which allows American citizens the right to own a gun. Even children under 18 may possess guns that were given to them by parents or guardians as gifts provided that they have written permission. It is possible for an American to purchase very sophisticated military equipment including semi-automatic assault weapons.

In the aftermath of several mass shootings there have been calls for gun laws to be amended and even for there to be a new constitutional amendment. The pressure group the National Rifle Association (NRA) is well supported, funded and opposes such reform.