What is in this Article:
John Paul Stevens (former supreme court justice) is saying we should repeal the 2nd Amendment
In March 2018, former supreme court justice, John Paul Stevens made a point-blank statement that the 2nd amendment should be repealed through the implementation of a new amendment. In the subsequent months, this has been a talking point on both sides of the political aisle with left leaning politicians and talking heads taking courage with the credibility afforded by a man who has been part of the highest court in the land; through his opinion piece in the New York Times. Those leaning right have largely dismissed the talk, as the ravings of a man past his prime and one who no longer represents the Supreme Court.
Judge Activists on the Highest Court in America
The problem with what former Justice Stevens is doing, is that it is blatant in its attempt to create a catalyst for other activist judges on the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States). He is well within his right to do that overtly, now that he is not part of the court. Unfortunately, it adds to the brazen behavior of other justices who are still in the position to interpret laws.
Another concern with the statement by Mr. Stevens is that it’s improbable at best and wildly unlikely that the amendment process would ever be able to be enacted at this point in time. Certainly, if it was, the general control of the states goes in favor of the more conservative slant. This doesn’t however preclude the SCOTUS from hearing yet another gun related landmark case.
Furthermore, he bases his argument off emotion and reaction to the Heller decision. He is subtly trying to change the wording of the original text of the Second, while making this overt proposal to change the text heavily. By taking such an extreme approach it subtly invites others to soften in their own minds, the actual wording of the 2nd amendment and to systematically be prepared to hear less extreme arguments.
It’s notable that he makes a plea based on the status of the NRA and their lobbying power. The NRA is indeed powerful, but the fact that they are powerful should not be a blanket endorsement for neutering the Constitution. Perhaps there should be some changes to the lobbying regulations and perhaps there should be some reflection on how we allow groups to shape the political arguments and the legislative decisions of this country. There is no reason a single non-profit organization should be used as leverage to affect the underlying structure of the Constitution of the United States.
The biggest concern is that other justices, already having proven their propensity to moonlight as activists, might be spurred on to take extremist positions in light of the once credible Justice Stevens rendering an opinion in the NYT. This includes existing commentary by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor that smells a lot like a political opinion rather than a legislative interpretation with regards to everything from woman’s reproductive rights, to immigration to gun control, that makes this statement not much of a stretch.
Other concerns with the arguments made by former justice Stevens
The argument is heavily geared towards “knocking the NRA down a peg” rather than addressing the fundamental concerns that someone might legitimately have with the second amendment. It is not a realistic basis for the formation of a longstanding argument. It’s a bit of a bully mentality.
The Heller decision speaks to an individual’s right to personal protection. It flies in the face of the longstanding “concession” made by SCOTUS decisions on all things 2A, that rests the foundation of the 2A in the “militia”. The problem with the fundamental argument made by the Supreme court prior to Heller is that the militia, aside from in Justice Scalia’s (and a few other SC justice’s) opinion, is that the word militia is severely misunderstood and misinterpreted even if it did protect the strength of the 2A up until now.
Heller has its own problems but being contrary to what former justice Stevens would like to see, is not one of them.
The people of the United States and the zealous advocate organizations (yes, the NRA can be included in that group) run a legitimate risk of causing problems by not pacing themselves in trying to get further gun rights established in writing – for instance full 50-state CCW reciprocity. Such an action could unwittingly open the 2nd amendment up for debate on the grounds that a position is adopted and ruled upon on the topic that fundamentally undermines the Second Amendment.
Justice Stevens is well within his right to make statements even of a political nature. But that doesn’t mean he is right, or that we should listen to it. He isn’t a madman, per se, but he certainly has adopted an extreme position that only temporarily appeases the mob that resides, ready and willing to take away gun rights en masse. There will be more moderate arguments and some will agree.
What must not be let to happen, is that gun rights advocates should not give up an inch. Every legislative change since 1934 in the gun control arena has threatened to undermine the Second Amendment. Whether you agree with the NFA (National Firearms Act of 1934 and subsequent) or not, it is fundamentally degrading to the formative structure of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Why Second Amendment supporters can dismiss the statements made by former justice Stevens
Ultimately, there is less cause for concern than you might think about this statement and the subsequent small groundswell of support by gun control advocates. There are myriad reasons this can all be dismissed as a ridiculous bit of fanfare that will amount to nothing, not the least of which is the premise the argument was built upon. From a retired Supreme Court Justice, one should frankly expect better argumentation and a richer basis of facts. But there are many other reasons that make this almost laughable. No one is saying to forget about the threat to the Second Amendment, but rather that this one has no teeth.
- Neil Gorsuch was appointed to the Supreme Court – at worst he will be a moderate on the topic and lean towards preservation of the Second Amendment.
- There is a hearing now ongoing that will most assuredly end in the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. At worst he will be a supporter of the Second Amendment. At worst.
- The Heller case was specific in its decision and there is deference to that opinion that will play out favorably for the overall state of the Second Amendment.
- The House and Senate and the Presidency, as well as a majority of the State Governorships/Senates are held by Moderate or better Republicans/Conservatives who at worst will maintain the status quo as long as they have a reasonable chance to gain reelection. Without a massive swing in the mid term elections that will remain unfettered for some time.
- Overwhelmingly 2nd Amendment supporters are more mobile and more likely to vote at the pools when challenged by proposed gun legislation than are the opposition. That tends to be true of Republicans and Conservatives in general as well.
- Many moderates and even a large number of left leaning citizens have been buying guns during the increasing legislative assaults from different states in the wake of school and other “mass” shootings.
- While media does seem completely on board with gun control if you were to look at the second amendment play that is prevalent in Mass Media, new media and internet media has a large population of 2nd amendment supporters who are vocal and largely make sound arguments.
In the end, what a retired SCOTUS judge has to say about any major law means little to nothing. What’s important is that we do not let it shape the parameters of the argument and soften the edges of the resolve we have to moderate the extremists and keep the Second Amendment intact as it was originally intended to be.
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