Former Supreme Court Justice Calls for Repeal of the Second Amendment

After the massive demonstrations held last week at the March for Our Lives, it’s beginning to look like the gun debate won’t be so easily shelved this time around.

But while the demands made by protesters are quite reasonable –  raising the firearm purchase age to 21 and mandating more thorough background checks — these measures might ultimately fall short.

And that’s because the Constitution protects firearms and the industry surrounding them, making any truly meaningful reform difficult — if not outright impossible to achieve.

An alternative, though it might sound radical, is worth serious consideration: the drafting and ratification of a new amendment which would supersede the Second Amendment.

This is the proposal put forth by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in a recent editorial published in the  New York Times.

Does this mean a full-on ban on the private ownership of all firearms? Of course not, Stevens explains. Rather, this new amendment — much like other amendments of the past – would repeal and replace the Second Amendment without wholly shredding it.

Stevens states that the impetus behind the Second Amendment — as written in the 18th century — was to ensure the fragile state of the new union could not be exploited by outside forces, thanks to the protected creation of local militias. Given that the United States not only has a standing army today, but also has the world’s largest military force in history means the need for militias is more than outmoded.

Stevens points out that although the Second Amendment has long remained the law, it has also long been interpreted to have important limits and allowed states to enforce gun control measures as they saw fit. In 2008, that changed, and it became official: private gun ownership for U.S. citizens would be legally protected in every state. This proved to be a decisive tipping point when it comes to the country’s gun policy, quite likely marking a point of no return.

And although it may sound like an audacious goal, Stevens’ proposal of taking an ax to the Second Amendment may be the only reform worth pursuing. Should all firearms be prohibited? Of course not. But this would create an opportunity to sensibly rebuild firearm laws on a federal level.

Right now, an average of $730 million is spent every year in the United States to treat gunshot wounds. When it comes to completed suicide attempts, guns are far and away the top method of choice among Americans — around 22,000 kill themselves with a firearms yearly. And firearms are the third most common cause of deaths among Americans under age 18 — no wonder young students are in the streets to demand better gun control.

These statistics cannot be found in any other developed country in the world that’s not actively at war. They are uniquely American — and that’s because of our unique firearm laws. There’s simply no getting around this fact.

Unfortunately, when it comes to politics on the Hill, money speaks. And that’s clearly the case, given that gun and ammunition manufacturer stocks soared after the Las Vegas massacre and the NRA saw their donations triple after Parkland.

Regardless, with so many lives already needlessly lost to gun violence in this country — and, without a doubt, many more lives yet to be lost — the only truly rational path to change just might require a severe reexamination of the Second Amendment, regardless of whose bank account takes a hit as a result.

Photo Credit: Phil Roeder/Flickr

63 comments

JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris6 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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Marie W
Marie W7 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Margie F
Margie FOURIEabout a year ago

Thank you

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Mary B
Mary Babout a year ago

Ruth R, many of those children will be turning 18 nest year and will be voting so You best get used to them having a say in this issue. And Eric , what don't you understand about yes people have a right to defend themselves, just not with a GUN until they have earned the privilege of owning one and then only a hunting rifle or a small hand gun ? You're still pushing the notion that if people can't have guns at all, that we'll lose our freedom. Do you think MANY of us don't understand that the NRA is the lobby for the gun manufacturers ? Peace love and liberty is the only real path to prosperity and progress. Good ideals, and it does not require GUNS ! NONE of those ideals are at the same level as owning guns designed to kill people . I would say they are at the opposite end of the spectrum. They are more in alignment with safety, happiness and generosity. Caring sharing and wealth distribution. ALL the things the NRA do NOT stand for .

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Jaime J
Jaime Jabout a year ago

Thank you!!

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Eric Lees
Eric Leesabout a year ago

Rachel, yes our Republic is in danger of falling. Not from an external threat but from the ignorance of the masses whom would willingly give up our Liberty in exchange for an empty promise from government.

There may not be a clear transition from Republic to Tyranny, they may just continue to chip away at our Liberties. Our founding fathers warned us, will we head the warning in time?

The world is changing. We have many things that we must fix if we want our Republic to survive. The shift has started from the USA being the lone super power to China taking the lead. It's hard to predict how the transition will work. Will it be peaceful or will it be WWIII and the collapse of the dollar?

Peace, Love & Liberty is the only path to real progress and prosperity.

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Rachel -
Past Member about a year ago

Eric L, you are correct, no question. But I think it’s unrealistic to think the 2nd Amendment can be a weapon against tyranny today. For one thing, few people seem aware of just how many indicators of tyranny are present in America already, let alone care. And then there are the dummies who believe trashing free speech is actually a good idea to protect people's feelings and ditching privacy rights is okay in the name of catching Nazis. Plus, corporate media has largely succeeded in dividing the country to the point that many people despise their fellow citizens over the false dichotomy of neoliberalism /neoconservatism. WTH America! Maybe if we accidentally elected Pol Pot 2.0 everyone would unite for a common cause... perhaps some military and civilian law enforcement would side with the People, depending... who knows... but yeah, you're correct, the framers believed the people have the right to overthrow the federal government - by force, if necessary - when it ceases to be a legitimate government by violating the rights of its people. :((

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Rachel -
Past Member about a year ago

No, thanks, I prefer that the government respect the civil rights of law-abiding people. SCOTUS agrees, thank God, having declared 10 years ago that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes, such as self-defense. (DC v Heller) Stevens wrote the dissent, RK R.

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Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodmanabout a year ago

RK R wrote, "John Paul Stevens had his chance to repeal the 2nd Amendment when he wasn't selling his soul. ... " I am confused. When and how did Justice Stevens sell his soul?

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Eric Lees
Eric Leesabout a year ago

For those that do not care or hate Liberty there are plenty of countries that do not respect human rights. Please move rather than push to destroy the greatest experiment in Liberty.

Yes we have many problems here in the USA but giving up this Liberty will solve none of them and leave us open to the worst case. I doubt that anyone here really wants us to fall into total Tyranny.

Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

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