As it turns out, rescinding our Constitution’s 2nd amendment, as I proposed in my last post, is not a new idea and not mine alone. So I am happy and relieved to say that I am in good company. None other than John Paul Stevens, retired associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court expressed his advocacy for eliminating the 2nd amendment in a New York Times piece published March 27, 2018.
Allow me to thank my son, Rick Schultz, for researching this source.
Justice Stevens’s cogent words bring an historical perspective, explaining how we got to where we are today: far, far distant from the Founders’ reasonable expectations. I quote verbatim from the New York Times:
John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment
March 27, 2018
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. [boldface mine]
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.
Let’s be clear. Repealing the 2nd amendment will not eliminate guns. It will, however, allow state and local governments to constructively regulate them as best suits their respective communities. Thus the issue of what the Founders meant will be moot forever. People will still be able to keep a gun in their home for self defense.
In recent days well known historians Douglas Brinkley and Michael Beschloss are saying the current political discord is the scariest threat to our democracy since the pre-Civil War 1850s. Whether we talk about gun rights, Covid-19 anti-vaxxers, or Trump defeat-deniers, two themes emerge. There’s this “me-first” mentality that says my personal rights supersede the personal good of my neighbor. “You can’t make me where a mask. And not only that, but screw you and the horse you came in on.”
Second, as we mark the 20th anniversary of 9-11, the terrorist threat to America ironically no longer emanates from Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or even ordinary immigrants, but from fellow American citizens. Tragically, the national unity spawned by the 9-11 attacks has decayed to become the January 6, 2021 insurrection sacking the Capitol by our own citizens.
There are good things happening. The Me Too Movement and Black Lives Matter — once believed improbable — are fundamentally changing America for the better. Now it’s time to kill the obsolete, putrefying 2nd amendment. Let’s put a fork in it.