Fmr. Supreme Court Justice: Repeal the Second Amendment

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens / Getty Images
March 27, 2018

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens penned an op-ed in hurshe New York Times on Tuesday where he argued gun control demonstrators should "demand a repeal of the Second Amendment."

Stevens begins his piece, titled "John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment," by expressing admiration for "the type of civic engagement schoolchildren and their supporters demonstrated" during Saturday's "March for Our Lives."

"These demonstrations demand our respect," Stevens said. "They reveal the broad public support for legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren and others in our society," he said.

He expressed support for their calls to produce legislation prohibiting ownership of semiautomatic weapons, increase the minimum age to buy a gun, and establish more comprehensive background checks.

But Stevens argued those measures don't go far enough. What is really needed, he said, is the repeal of the Second Amendment.

"But the demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform," Stevens said. "They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment."

The initial reasons behind the Second Amendment, including that a "national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states," are "a relic of the 18th century," he argued.

He stated that for over 200 years, it was understood the Second Amendment did not preclude federal or state gun control legislation. Now, he argued, that understanding has been unduly challenged by the National Rifle Association.

"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," Stevens said.

He argued the NRA has challenged the stance maintained under Chief Justice Warren Burger by "claiming that federal regulation of firearms curtailed Second Amendment rights."

Stevens brought up the Heller Supreme Court decision, which he offered the dissenting opinion for, saying it provided the NRA with a "propaganda weapon of immense power."

"In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters."

Stevens said he remains convinced the decision was "wrong" but added it was at least "debatable." As such, overturning the decision and repealing the Second Amendment should be "simple," he said.

"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," Stevens said.

"That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform," Stevens said.

Stevens ultimately argued reversing Heller and repealing the Second Amendment, thereby greatly restricting gun ownership in the United States,  is the best option to "make our schoolchildren safer."

"It would make our schoolchildren safer than they have been since 2008 and honor the memories of the many, indeed far too many, victims of recent gun violence," he said.