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The Second Amendment should be repealed, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens says
A former Supreme Court judge says it’s time to repeal the Second Amendment, a NRAer’s worst nightmare
A former Supreme Court judge is calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.
Former Justice John Paul Stevens — appointed in 1975 by Republican President Gerald Ford, who emerged as one of the court's liberal voices until his retirement in 2010 — pointed to the recent nationwide protests for gun control as a sign that America was ready for such a major change.
"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," Stevens wrote in The New York Times. "But the demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform. They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment."
After describing the Second Amendment as "a relic of the 18th century," Stevens said the notion that it protects unlimited gun ownership rights was a modern concept.
For over 200 years after the adoption of the Second Amendment, it was uniformly understood as not placing any limit on either federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation. In 1939 the Supreme Court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of 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.”
Stevens pointed to the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, declaring that the court's finding of an individual's right to bear arms had managed to serve as a "propaganda weapon of immense power" for the NRA. As a result, Stevens decided, the most effective way to protect children and other Americans from being victimized by gun violence would be to outright repeal the Second Amendment.
There is a rich irony to Stevens' call for repeal of the Second Amendment. Prior to the 1970s — when the NRA was hijacked by right-wing radicals who transformed it from a sports club to a place for spreading paranoid fantasies about government mass confiscation of guns — no one in the mainstream was calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment. This is because, as Stevens pointed out, the very notion that the Constitution could guarantee someone unlimited access to firearms had not yet been constructed. As a result, when moderate gun regulation became necessary, there was little opposition to it — and, as a result, little reason to believe that more extreme measures might be necessary.
Hence the not-so-subtle subtext in Stevens' op-ed: Because the NRA has managed to stymie legislative efforts to save lives and reduce mass shootings through common sense (and overwhelmingly popular) gun control measures, and has used the Second Amendment to do so, it may now be necessary to repeal that amendment in order to get the government working again.