Nelson on Gun Control Push: Constitution Is Living, Breathing Document That ‘Shifts With the Times’

• June 20, 2016 10:39 am


Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) claimed the the Constitution is "a living, breathing document that shifts with the times and the new technologies" in an interview Monday about a renewed push by Democrats for gun control.

MSNBC host Thomas Roberts asked Nelson to answer whether it is possible for gun control and gun rights to exist simultaneously.

"So, sir, in this political culture that we live in, and the advances of technology and society, is there not a way where gun rights and gun control can live in the same environment?" Roberts asked. "Do they have to be mutually exclusive?"

Roberts’ question was prompted by NRA executive director Chris Cox, who said Sunday on ABC that politicians divert attention away from the right of the American people to defend themselves by arguing "we're somehow to blame [for shootings]."

"I'm confident that at the end of the day, the American people are going to understand that we have a God-given right to defend ourselves," Cox said. "That firearms are an effective means of doing just that, and the politicians who want to divert attention away from the underlying problem and suggest that we're somehow to blame will pay a price for it."

Nelson responded to this by listing constitutionally protected rights that are nonetheless limited in various ways. He said the American people have a right to free speech but that does not give a person the right to scream "fire" in a crowded theater—an example from a Supreme Court case that was later repudiated by its author, Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr., for being too broad and jeopardizing the rights of American citizens.

Nelson told Roberts he'd had guns his entire life, but that he should be denied his Second Amendment right if he appeared on a terrorism watch list—as many innocent Americans have.

"I've had guns all my life," he said. "I hunt all my life. But, there's no sense in if I were on the no-fly list. If I can't get on an airplane because they suspect me of being a terrorist, why in the world should I be able to buy a gun? So, there are limits and that is what the Constitution is. It's a living, breathing document that shifts with the times and the new technologies. And that's what the NRA is missing."