It seems the kids who wanted the federal government to violate my basic rights are unhappy because a government entity is violating their basic rights.

A Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student tweeted out a photo of herself holding a clear backpack issued by the school in the wake of the tragic shooting last month. The caption read, “Starting off the last quarter of senior year right, with a good ol’ violation of privacy.”

She wasn’t the only Parkland student protesting the clear backpack policy. In fact, many student activists who have grabbed the national spotlight agitating for stricter federal gun control were not pleased that the power of governing authorities has been turned on them.

Senior Tyra Hemans told CNN she was OK with some of the new school security policies, such as ID requirements, but not the backpack rules.

“I’m not happy with it. Why are you punishing me for one person’s actions?” she said.

Well, Tyra, a lot of peaceful gun owners could ask you the same question about your gun control policies. 

She also told CNN that she believes clear backpacks violate students’ privacy.

The ubiquitous David Hogg also brought up the privacy issue and went as far as to specifically reference his “First Amendment rights.”

“It’s unnecessary, it’s embarrassing for a lot of the students and it makes them feel isolated and separated from the rest of American school culture where they’re having essentially their First Amendment rights infringed upon because they can’t freely wear whatever backpack they want regardless of what it is,” Hogg said.

Well, David, a lot of people feel the same way about you pleading for the government to stomp all over their “Second Amendment rights.”

You see kids; you can’t have it both ways. Either rights are important and should be protected from government interference – all of them. Or, they don’t really matter – none of them.

I talk a lot about constitutional consistency. This is a prime example of why.

Granted, the Constitution doesn’t have anything to say about school backpacks. They remain a matter of state and local policy. But I’m driving at a more fundamental principle here.

When you beg for more government, you can’t control where it ends up being directed. Eventually, it will direct its power at you. And when it does, you’ve abandoned any principled basis to protest. If you successfully convince politicians to tear down barriers set in place to limit government action, they are torn down for good. You can’t hastily scramble to reestablish them when you suddenly find your own rights threatened.

The Bill of Rights was intended to “prevent misconstruction or abuse” of power as exercised through “the government” – the federal government. The founding generation understood government powers would have a tendency to expand, especially in times of crisis. They drew some lines in the sand that were to never be crossed, no matter what. Situations like the school shooting in Florida were exactly why the founders insisted on these limits – to stop the federal expansion of authority in the heat of emotion.

After the Parkland shooting, students demanded the federal government cross that line and implement federal gun control measures. But if the constitutional limits on the federal government’s power to respect the right to self-defense are negotiable in times of crisis, why isn’t the “right” to carry an opaque backpack in school equally negotiable? Heck, there’s not even any kind of constitutional issues raised by clear backpacks – at least not by the U.S. Constitution as ratified. Never-the-less, these kids need to understand that if we can just sweep the Second Amendment under the rug, we can do the same with the First, the Fourth or even the Fifth Amendments.

Without clear boundaries and fully enforced limits on government power as delineated by the Bill of Rights, our basic rights become subject to wrestling matches by politically motivated interest groups.

The American system only works when we respect all of the limits on federal power. We can’t pick and choose. The Constitution isn’t a smorgasbord.

Mike Maharrey

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