Wise Words from a Wise Man …

John Paul Stevens served as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1975 until his retirement in 2010.  He was nominated to the court by a republican president, Gerald R. Ford.  Today, Justice Stevens wrote an OpEd for the New York Times that I think should be read by every person in the United States. I was amazed by his opinion, given his 35 years of interpreting and enforcing the U.S. Constitution, and I think you will be too.  And so, I will let Justice Stevens speak for himself:

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.

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.

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.

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.”

In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.

That decision — 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.

That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform. It would eliminate the only legal rule that protects sellers of firearms in the United States — unlike every other market in the world. It would make our schoolchildren safer than they have been since 2008 and honor the memories of the many, indeed far too many, victims of recent gun violence.

I tip my hat to Justice John Paul Stevens for this editorial.  His words are wise and timely. Of course we all realize that to repeal the 2nd amendment would require passage of another amendment, and that this is about as likely as me growing wings and flying off to England to visit my friend Mary!  Justice Stevens also realizes this.  But the point, nonetheless, is well made and it is my belief that someday, perhaps not for another 70 years, but someday there will be significant restrictions on gun ownership.  And now … 10 … 9 … 8 … we surely won’t have long to wait for the NRA’s response, and I could almost write the script … 7 … 6 …

31 thoughts on “Wise Words from a Wise Man …

  1. As I sift through these discussions, it seems that the real culprits are not the lapdog legislators to the NRA but Supreme Court justices who allowed this perverted interpretation of the second amendment to allow gun ownership to everyone who wants a gun. Countries like mine that don’t have this right have an easy time passing strict gun laws. That amendment really has to go – not easy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are words worth heeding or strongly considering. Even deceased Justice Anton Scalia noted that we need to be careful to avoid permitting a firearm whenever, to whomever and for whatever purpose. To me this is saying be wary of military weapons in civilian life.

    By the way, I have often said pick up the newpaper and count the gun death stories each day. Another daily occurrence is the local news “Breaking News Alert.” It is either a car accident or shooting.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, I agree. We simply cannot continue on the path we are on, and I would think that everybody could see that, but I guess not. Sigh. And you are correct … I believe that a daily shooting in my city is pretty much the norm. Our gun-related death statistics are shocking to those in almost every other nation on earth!

      At the moment, I am appalled by the attacks on the young people who marched last weekend and the surviver of the Parkland shooting. These are unconscionable and make me want to … well, never mind … I shall try to remember that I am a lady. Hmph.


  3. Dear Jill,

    I was just getting ready to start a post on the former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens who as you mentioned above, was appointed under a republican President Ford. On the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in the Heller case, he was one of the 4 dissenting on the ruling which affirmed the right of US citizens to be armed.

    President Ford originally chose Mr. Stevens because of his reputation as a highly capable and nonpartisan judge on the U.S. court of appeals in Chicago. When he started out he fit the profile of an independent-minded middle-of-the road decision maker.

    But as the court shifted toward the right in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Judge Stevens shifted left. By default, he became the senior voice on the liberal side after the court’s most prominent liberals — Justices William J. Brennan, Thurgood Marshall and Harry Blackmun — retired between 1990 and 1994. This angered the right immensely.

    I am all for getting rid of the 2nd amendment if that’s what it takes to clean up the insanity of US current gun laws. But if we can make common sense rules/ laws like universal background checks and the banning of assault type weapons like the AR15 without throwing out the 2nd amendment, I’m for that as well.

    I am worried that the process to fight to end the 2nd amendment would be an almost insurmountable obstacle. In short this may not be as easy to accomplish as the former Justice believes.

    Thanks for an excellent post, as well.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Gronda! I agree with you, that at this time I do not see how we could even consider scrapping the 2nd amendment without starting an uprising that would make the Civil War look like a backyard game. But something certainly has to give. We simply cannot allow this madness to continue, yet all the buffoons in Congress are too deeply in the pockets of the NRA and the gun manufacturers to stand up for what is right. Midterms … midterms … midterms … sigh. Hugs!!!


  4. Guess what? Get rid of the 2nd Amendment, the “nutcases” will still have guns. The rest of us won’t. You think it’s a slaughterhouse now, try doubling or tripling that. If the AR-15 was illegal, let’s say, before this school shooting. Who will go out on a limb and GUARANTEE that it would not have happened? Till we fix society, this will continue to happen, with or without the 2nd Amendment.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fixing society is a very long term project and if you look around the globe it’s not accomplished yet. For most of history the attempts were by force of arms , superior weaponry and they don’t seem to have worked yet. For a nation to feel comfortable the citizens must feel safe and looking from the UK it seems to me many students are afraid to attend classes, and if this goes on many may refuse to attend. The only way to a safe society is to restrict guns and have a solid efficient police force.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: reblog of Filosofa’s Word – suziland too or obsolete childhood

  6. You may recall that I quoted this man in an earlier blog post. He has stressed repeatedly that the Second Amendment was written to protect the rights of the MILITIA to bear arms — not every nut case out t here. Good post!

    Liked by 2 people

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