Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in an op-ed in the New York Times this morning, called for the repeal of the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
“Rarely in my lifetime have I seen the type of civic engagement schoolchildren and their supporters demonstrated in Washington and other major cities throughout the country this past Saturday. These demonstrations demand our respect. They reveal the broad public support for legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren and others in our society,” he wrote.
“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 added.
Stevens was appointed to the bench by President Gerald Ford in 1975. He served until his retirement in 2010.
In arguing for repeal Stevens called the Second Amendment a “relic of the 18th century.” Its reach, he argues, has always been limited. That changed according to Stevens late last century when the National Rifle Association began to argue that federal firearms regulations curtailed Second Amendment rights.
The District of Columbia v. Heller case of 2010, Stevens says, was also a turning point in the gun-rights debate. Licensed special D.C. police officer Dick Anthony Heller sued the District of Columbia over the District’s gun ban. Heller was allowed to carry a gun in federal office buildings for his job but was not allowed to keep one in his home because of the ban. Heller sued on the basis that the gun ban infringed on his Second Amendment rights. The Court, in a split decision, ruled that there was an individual right to bear arms that superseded local law and found for Heller.
“That decision,” Stevens writes, “which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. 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.”
Public outcry from students, parents and lawmakers has grown louder in recent months for Congress to enact restrictive gun laws. Protesters however, have denied that they are pursuing a ban on all guns. The National Rifle Association pointed that out in a statement responding to Stevens.
“Emboldened by the mainstream media, the gun-control lobby is no longer distancing themselves from the radical idea of repealing the Second Amendment and banning all firearms,” wrote Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action.
“The protestors in last week’s march told us with their words and placards that the current debate is not about fake terms like ‘commonsense’ gun regulation. It’s about banning all guns. The men and women of the National Rifle Association, along with the majority of the American people and the Supreme Court, believe in the Second Amendment right to self-protection and we will unapologetically continue to fight to protect this fundamental freedom,” he added.
Legislation that bolsters the nation’s firearm background check system and provides federal funding to states to address mental health issues and anonymous reporting systems for violence, as well as funding for physical fortifications like metal detectors and response technologies for law enforcement, was included in a massive spending bill signed into law last week.
Other measures, including bills expanding background checks and issuing protective orders against gun possession, have also been introduced in Congress. It is unclear though, when, or if, any additional gun-related bills will be voted on in Congress.