The following editorial was originally printed in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday February 4, 2018 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.
By: Melissa Newsham
Punahou School, Class of 2019
Bowling for Columbine documentary filmmaker Michael Moore and fellow anti-gun activists consider the constitutional right to bear arms “ancient and outdated.” The Second Amendment, which was implemented by the Founding Fathers as a tool to preserve the nation against tyranny, is under attack from those who believe that tyranny is no longer a legitimate concern.
Many opponents of the Second Amendment consider it obsolete and irrelevant to today’s modern world – as if it is somehow only applicable to an uncivilized society. Historical context is vital when evaluating the Second Amendment and determining if it can or should be omitted or rewritten entirely. Within the past few decades, it is clear that what the Founding Fathers feared was neither fantasy nor paranoia and certainly not antiquated. Horrific dictators like Hitler, Mao Zedong, and Stalin all implemented gun control laws or confiscated citizens’ weapons. The seizure of arms served a singular purpose: to solidify a government’s power over its citizens. It is clear that governments wanted to substantially weaken dissent, as Mao Zedong once explained, “All political power comes from the barrel of a gun. The Communist Party must command all the guns, that way, no guns can ever be used to command the party.” Although the United States federal government and those who favor stricter gun control laws are not equivalent to the regimes that committed unforgivable crimes, it is reprehensible that they similarly want to deny citizens their rights.
Nobody really ever anticipates tyranny. It often comes without people noticing until it’s already too late. While the removal or revision of the Second Amendment may not signal that tyranny is imminent, it certainly would indicate a fundamental shift in the relationship between the government and its people. Ordinary citizens would be viewed as undeserving of trust, almost as if they were subjects of the ruling government. Many citizens would view the government with suspicion; this wariness is dangerous.
While political beliefs seem resolute on all sides, there is a double standard in regard to constitutionality. The people who cry for a ban on guns or a constitutional revision are often quick to reason that the Constitution is out of date and inapplicable to modern times. However, this group of people is the same group of individuals that accuse the President of constitutional violations, which implies that the Constitution is both valid and must be upheld. Congresswoman Maxine Waters recently claimed, “Congress has a constitutional responsibility” to impeach President Trump. While this is debatable, she seems to believe that upholding the Second Amendment is less of a constitutional responsibility in comparison. It is contradictory to believe that some parts of the Constitution are more important than others in order to rationalize one’s political views. Congresswoman Waters and those like her have a responsibility to the Constitution in its entirety, notably including “the right for the people to keep and bear Arms.” Disregarding the Second Amendment due to incompatibility not only threatens the very fabric of our nation but it also damaging to arguments that those on the Left would want to make about applying the Constitution elsewhere.
The Constitution either matters or it doesn’t. It isn’t a document that can be selectively applied to bolster the argument at hand. Those who argue for the removal of the Second Amendment must be comfortable with this applying to all parts of the Constitution. Being against revisionism does not mean being against productive policy discussions. Regardless, one must tread carefully when altering the Constitution. Refraining from revisionist solutions to the gun control debate may be a way to avoid making claims that are both historically and ideologically inconsistent.