Two founding documents: The Treaty of Waitangi and the Second Amendment

Guest Post:

Not wanting to turn this into a Gun Blog but while solving the world’s problems over beers a mate of mine says, ‘the yanks should just ban guns‘ problem solved.

I said, ‘It’s not that simple: the 2nd Amendment gives the right to self-defence and firearms ownership. It’s US Law.’

He says ‘then just change the Law.’ Besides the impracticality of this, many Kiwis just don’t seem to realize that the US is not a Democracy but a Constitutional Republic and the Amendments are part of its founding documents.

It occurred to me then that maybe to help Kiwis understand the ‘Second Amendment issue’ we should compare repealing the Second Amendment to repealing the Treaty of Waitangi.

A repeal of either just won’t happen and there are many similarities to help Kiwis understand this.

  • Both are considered part of the founding documents or ‘conventions’ in their respective countries.
  • They both give ‘rights’ to citizens of the respective country

For example:

  • The Second Amendment guarantees ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms’
  • The Treaty of Waitangi’s second article guarantees all Māori ‘chieftainship over their lands, villages and all their treasures’

A majority of the public in each country currently support these ‘conventions’ and the rights they detail.

A minority now disagree with these rights and the power they confer and would claim that these rights are unnecessary and outdated anyway. But no one will give them up voluntarily.

Both documents were written a long time ago. The Second Amendment on the 15th of December, 1791 and the Treaty of Waitangi on the 6th of February 1840 when the world and the meanings of some of the language used was quite different

Both documents have been challenged over what was intended by the wording and their relevance to the modern world:

  • The Second Amendment; ‘it only applies to Militia’
  • The Treaty of Waitangi: ‘kāwanatanga means Sovereignty not ceded’

Despite this courts in both nations have repeatedly confirmed their legal meaning and the fact that they remain valid.

It can be argued there has been unintended and negative outcomes from these founding documents and that there are ongoing social costs but statistics can be found to back either side of that argument.

There are many powerful vested interest groups tied up with ensuring that both the Second Amendment and the Treaty of Waitangi remain as they are. It’s a legal nightmare to undo now.

Whether people like it or not these documents cannot easily be struck down because if either the New Zealand or the United States Governments arbitrarily annulled the Treaty or the Second Amendment there would be large-scale civil unrest.

For better or worse, both Nations are stuck with their ‘founding documents.’


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A guest post submitted to Whaleoil and edited by Whaleoil staff.

Guest Post content does not necessarily reflect the views of the site or its editor. Guest Post content is offered for discussion and for alternative points of view.