On Valentine’s Day, a gunman entered a high school in Parkland, Florida and slaughtered 17 children. Since then, calls for gun reform have intensified, and there has been an outpouring of activism like never before. Everyone from Pope Francis to multiple businesses who used to support the NRA has called for gun control, and now we can add a former Supreme Court Justice to the list. But he took it a step further and said that we need to get rid of the Second Amendment altogether.
After last weekend’s huge March For Our Lives, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote an op-ed for the New York Times and gave some valuable advice to everyone who wants stronger gun laws.
“Demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.”
Justice Stevens spoke at length about his respect for the “civic engagement schoolchildren and their supporters demonstrated in Washington” and other cities in the country on Saturday, citing that the strength of the protests reveals broad public support for legislation that will prevent more mass shootings.
“That support is a clear sign to lawmakers to enact legislation prohibiting civilian ownership of semiautomatic weapons, increasing the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 years old, and establishing more comprehensive background checks on all purchasers of firearms. But the demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform. They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.”
He noted that our Founding Fathers’ concern that a national standing army might pose a legitimate threat to states’ security led to the Second Amendment, and that concern is now a relic of the 18th century. He further said what most of us already know, that the Second Amendment was supposed to allow for a “well regulated militia,” not a license for all conservative nutjobs to have assault rifles. What is happening with guns in America today is in no way “well regulated.”
He points out that for 200 years, the Second Amendment was “uniformly understood as not placing any limit on either federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation.” In 1939, SCOTUS even unanimously declared that Congress could disallow possession of sawed-off shotguns because that particular weapon had no relation to a “well regulated militia.”
“During the years when Warren Burger was our chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge, federal or state, as far as I am aware, expressed any doubt as to the limited coverage of that amendment. When organizations like the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and began their campaign claiming that federal regulation of firearms curtailed Second Amendment rights, Chief Justice Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
As far as the NRA goes, Justice Stevens said outright that the 2008 SCOTUS decision to overturn Justice Burger’s ruling gave the NRA a “propaganda weapon of immense power.”
The New York Times used this opportunity to display the tremendous difference between rifles from the 18th century when the Second Amendment was written.
Justice Stevens, who retired in 2010, is convinced it would be easy to overturn the Second Amendment.
“Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.”
As a conservative, who was appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford, Justice Stevens is a powerful voice. We hope that his opinions will hold some influence over lawmakers and gun owners alike.
Featured image via Getty/Alex Wong
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