Second Amendment

Former Justice John Paul Stevens calls for repeal of the Second Amendment

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Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Demonstrators who protested gun violence during the March For Our Lives rally last weekend should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment, according to retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

In a New York Times op-ed, Stevens said the Second Amendment was adopted amid a concern that a standing army might pose a threat to the security of the states.

“Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century,” Stevens said.

The Second Amendment reads: “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.”

The amendment was previously understood to allow legislative limits on guns. Stevens cited a 1939 Supreme Court decision, United States v. Miller, that held Congress could ban possession of a sawed-off shotgun because it had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well-regulated militia.”

That understanding was overturned when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 that there was an individual right to bear arms. Stevens points out that he was one of four dissenters, and he remains convinced that the decision “was wrong and certainly was debatable.”

“Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the NRA’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option,” Stevens said.

“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.”

Stevens had previously proposed a change to the Second Amendment to clarify that it applies only to citizens’ right to keep and bear arms in state militias. At that time, he suggested the amendment should read: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms when serving in the militia shall not be infringed.”

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