U.S. Supreme Court

Heller Decision Leaves Room for New Gun Restrictions, Retired Justice Stevens Says


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Retired U.S. Supreme Court
Justice John Paul Stevens.
Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens said Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s gun rights decisions don’t preclude new laws regulating automatic weapons.

Stevens chided Congress for failing to tighten gun laws after the mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, the Washington Examiner and Reuters report. “The fact that Congress doesn’t address it is, I think, mind-boggling,” he said in the speech broadcast by C-SPAN.

Stevens dissented in District of Columbia v. Heller when the court found the Second Amendment protects the right to keep handguns for protection within the home. A second case, McDonald v. Chicago, found that the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments, as well as the federal government.

Speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Stevens said the Heller decision protected only weapons typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, and machine guns were not among the protected weapons. “Thus, even as generously construed in Heller, the Second Amendment provides no obstacle to regulations prohibiting the ownership of the use of the sorts of automatic weapons used in the tragic multiple killings in Virginia, Colorado and Arizona in recent years,” he said.

Justice Antonin Scalia went out of his way in his majority opinion in Heller to limit Second Amendment protections to the possession of handguns in the home for purposes of self-defense, Stevens said said. A section of Scalia’s opinion identified permissible regulations, including prohibitions on the carrying of concealed weapons, though the section was dicta, Stevens said.

In questions after the speech, Stevens said he would like the presidential candidates to discuss gun control more often.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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