Among all of the arguments that have been made this election about the special power of the Second Amendment, Chris Christie floated a particularly interesting one in Thursday night's GOP debate: The framers of the Constitution clearly thought it was a really important right because they ranked it second.
"See, here's the thing," he said. "I don't think the founders put the Second Amendment as number two by accident. I don't think they dropped all the amendments into a hat and picked them out of a hat. I think they made the Second Amendment the second amendment because they thought it was just that important."
In fact, the rights in the Bill of Rights were never ranked by importance. The First and Second Amendments even looked entirely different in their original form in 1789 — the first was about how to apportion Congressional seats, the second about whether members of Congress could raise their own salaries. Heady stuff! Neither was ratified at the time (the original second amendment later became the 27th).
That means the amendments we now know as One through Ten were originally Three through Twelve.
For his part, James Madison wanted all these rights to be tucked into the main body of the Constitution. He lost that battle. But, as Slate wrote a few years ago, "The order of that list, however, still reflects Madison’s view: They come in the same order as the sections of the Constitution that they would have modified."
If you do happen to subscribe to Christie's interpretation, though, because it boosts the perceived importance of gun rights, then it inevitably follows that another right is even more important than that one: Freedom of the press.