The Second Amendment is ineffective to protect property rights. It’s hard to safely own a gun. The right to bear arms is dangerous and risky – – people will abuse or misuse guns, causing harm not only to one another, but to the laws of this nation. It’s far too hazardous to our safety to allow the general populace to own guns. After all, we have the police. Let’s just focus on training better police officers, electing better sheriffs and commissioners, and passing gun restrictions. The American people are capricious, ignorant, irrational and, therefore, incapable of preserving their own safety.
As a grassroots lobbyist for the Convention of States Project and proud member of Citizens for Self-Governance Hillsdale, I hear similar arguments about citizen-empowering projects from those on the Left and Right almost daily.
Conservatives, I’d like for you to imagine your reaction when hearing someone from the Left dispense this argument attacking the Second Amendment.
“The Constitution is clear,” you would probably say. “The words written in the Constitution are specific and should not be misinterpreted.”
What about Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, which describes the manner in which presidents are elected? Is this fundamental, too?
“Yes,” the Conservative would say. “Without the electoral college, Hillary Clinton would be President today.”
That’s right. The cities of Los Angeles and New York would’ve won Clinton the Presidency and destroyed individual sovereignty already far more than it is.
Not to mention, “There’s hardly anything in our lives the Feds aren’t regulating,” COS Sr. Advisor Jim DeMint said in March when he spoke at Hillsdale College. “The 10th Amendment isn’t relative anymore – – there is no individual sovereignty.”
So, in light of this, why in the world are many Conservatives touting Article II, the Second Amendment, and every other syllable of the Constitution except for Article V? Conservatives are adamant Constitutionalists; except, they get antsy at the mention of an amendment convention “on the application of two-thirds of the several states.”
“They think it’s too risky,” says COS Sr. Advisor Jim DeMint. “People tell me that the States are going to rewrite the Constitution.”
In my experience, this is one of the more widely used arguments against a Convention of States. Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn used it in a 2015 debate on the Convention of States with Convention of States co-Founder Michael Farris.
“It’s foolish to think that we’re going to fix [the nation’s problems] by changing the Constitution,” Arnn said.
For Arnn, amending the Constitution via this method “amount[s] to a restructuring of the Constitution.”
This falls within the argument from many on the Right claiming an Article V Convention of States will result in a “runaway convention” in which each state’s delegates will propose preposterous effaces to the Constitutions as it currently stands. I refer you to Weston Boardman’s op-ed to quell your fears of the convention’s Constitutional structure. But allow these words from Jim DeMint to bring clarity to the runaway argument for now: “There is already a runaway body rewriting our Constitution. It’s called the United States Congress.”
I posit the same opinion – – sovereignty has lost its meaning in the United States. When I look at the federal government, I see a Federal Reserve that controls the money flow at the whim of 12 unelected officials. I see a Supreme Court that overextended D.C.’s influence in the abortion laws of my home state of Texas and made the institution of marriage a matter of federal opinion rather than private conviction. Worst of all, I see the dissolution of federalism and separation of powers. Federal overreach? Legislating from the bench? Call me foolhardy, but these observations draw a clear conclusion that the federal government has no intention of protecting individual sovereignty. I don’t believe in singular entities like Congress or the Republican Party to restore Constitutionality in the federal government.
Arnn represents a group that believes that we will solve our problems by simply electing better people. However, this belief does not abide in the spirit of maintaining American federalism. It is an idea born out of fear.
“I am [worried about] an idiot convention,” Arnn said in 2015. “The idiot quotient is very high today.”
Read the opening paragraph of this piece. The Left cries “Stupid Americans!” Is Arnn doing any differently? Who’s directions should we follow? Since we are “idiots,” should we give up all our sovereignty to the experts who can run our lives? If we follow this logic, we ought to give up the entire prospect of preserving this nation. The patriots of this age are not fools. Given the historical precedent of state conventions before and after the Constitution’s ratification, and the numerous protections against a runaway convention (i.e. state power to recall convention delegates and the identical applications required to pass ¾ of the state legislatures), it would be truly foolish to dismiss exercising the states’ Article V powers.
Arnn essentially says the following: Article V of the Constitution is ineffective to protect individual sovereignty. It’s hard for the people to safely amend the Constitution. The state power to call a convention to amend the Constitution is dangerous – delegates will abuse and misuse the convention and cause harm to the laws of this nation. It’s far too hazardous to our safety to allow the general populace to have a say. After all, we have Congress. Let’s just focus on creating better laws, electing better senators and representatives, and passing limiting laws on the federal government.
Do you see how counterintuitive that is? It calls into controversy much of the Right’s apprehensions about a Convention of the States.
“[Citizens for Self-Governance] works on COS because there’s no way Congress would limit itself,” DeMint said. “We want the states to come together to propose amendments and restore limits to the federal government.”
Considering last month’s omnibus spending package, these “better” elected officials do not seem interested in federal limitations either.
“The United States is a terminal patient on an unsustainable course,” DeMint said. “Calling an Article V Convention of States would be too risky not to attempt.”
While working for the Convention of States Project, I have felt the national pulse. The people have a clear message for the federal government: We meant it when we wrote the Constitution. We no longer require nor do we desire an expansion beyond the Constitution’s boundaries. We no longer require nor do we desire a rogue interpretation of the Commerce Clause. In the spirit of the Founders, the Convention of States Project seeks to restore the federal government and its exigencies to that which we had in 1791, when the Constitution became the supreme law of the land.
Jack McPherson is a junior studying History and Politics