John Paul Stevens: 'There’s No Need for All the Guns We Have in the Country'

John Paul Stevens / Getty Images
May 13, 2019

In an interview with the Washington Post, former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens lamented about the Supreme Court's 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision and said, "there's no need for all the guns we have in the country and if I could get rid of one thing it would be to get rid of that whole gun climate."

The 2008 decision, of which Stevens wrote the dissenting opinion, is considered to be one of the most important cases relating to gun rights in the United States, and protected the individual right to gun ownership for Americans.

Stevens writes about the inner workings of the Court's deliberation on the case in a forthcoming book, the third he has written since he retired from the Supreme Court in 2010.

When he began writing his dissent on the case, Stevens said he aimed to persuade Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, who both ultimately sided with Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion.

"Unquestionably the most clearly incorrect decision that the Court announced during my tenure on the bench," Stevens additionally opined in his interview. "Just the other day there was another school shooting in Colorado, and every time it happens, it seems to me we don't have to have this kind of thing in this country, and we should do everything we can to try to change it."

Stevens, appointed to the Supreme Court in 1975 by President Gerald Ford, was a registered Republican when he first joined the court but over his three-decade tenure as an associate justice wound up siding with liberal majorities on a variety of notable decisions.

This is not the first time Stevens has offered his personal opinions on the Second Amendment since his retirement.

Following the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Stevens published an opinion piece in the New York Times calling for a full repeal of the Second Amendment and wrote, "Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that 'a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.' Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century."

Stevens's book, The Making of a Justice, is set to be released on Tuesday and is "a tale of a privileged childhood in Chicago, the ravages of the Great Depression and a family scandal, service as a wartime cryptologist and a charmed legal career as a Supreme Court clerk, appeals court judge and the third-longest-serving justice in the court's history."