Not surprisingly, the push for more draconian gun-control laws has strengthened following the Feb. 14 shooting deaths of 14 students and 3 teachers at a high school in south Florida. Now, a former Supreme Court justice has weighed in calling for a constitutional amendment to repeal the Second Amendment, which he says is “a relic of the 18th century.”
By Mark Anderson
Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens caused a stir on March 27 when he took to the sympathetic pages of The New York Times in an op-ed calling for repeal of the Second Amendment via constitutional amendment. What’s not as well known is that, about a month before that, a bill had been quietly introduced in Congress to ban all “assault weapons.”
The Assault Weapons Ban of 2018 (H.R. 5087), which has 174 cosponsors as of this writing, was introduced in the House Feb. 20, just six days after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. As of March 20, the legislation had been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, which referred it to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. The bill would “make it a crime to knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon (SAW) or large capacity ammunition feeding device (LCAFD).”
The bill does permit “continued possession, sale, or transfer of a grandfathered SAW, which must be securely stored. A licensed gun dealer must conduct a background check prior to the sale or transfer of a grandfathered SAW between private parties. The bill permits continued possession of, but prohibits sale or transfer of, a grandfathered LCAFD.”
The nationally televised March for Our Lives had just happened on March 24 in Washington, D.C.—where scores of emotional teens stumped for drastically increased gun controls—when Stevens’s anti-gun homily was published in the Times.
Referring to the radical idea of repealing the second of the 10 amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights—a concept that has never been seriously contemplated much less carried out—Stevens wrote: “Overturning that decision [in District of Columbia v. Heller, which upheld the individual right to bear arms] 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. . . .”
He argues: “Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment. . . . Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.”
Of course, Stevens knows that America has a standing army, which has grown beyond what our Founders envisioned due to the U.S. leading the charge in interventionist, undeclared world warfare. Worse still, the U.S. ceaselessly patrolling the world has over the years led to calls for surrendering command of U.S. forces to United Nations commanders—a prospect U.S. Army Medic Michael New resisted in 1995 when refused to wear a UN uniform.
“For over 200 years after the adoption of the Second Amendment,” Stevens, 97, opined, “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.’ ”
Irrespective of that court decision, the types of weapons needed for personal and community defense, in a Second Amendment context, would logically be based on effectiveness, since it’s absurd to speak of defending town, state, and nation from tyranny with inferior firepower. The widely popular AR-15—the prime target of the Florida students, other gun opponents, and an example of SAWs addressed in H.R. 5087—is arguably the best readily available defense weapon in terms of its utility and power.
Stevens’s Times piece comes adorned with a picture of an 18th century musket alongside an AR-15, and he tries to say that the AR-15’s power so far exceeds the power of the weaponry from the days of the Second Amendment’s framers that the amendment itself is enabling dangers that the framers could not have foreseen. Therefore, Stevens believes, the U.S. should disregard the framers in terms of the principle of homeland defense.
Overlooked is the fact that the musket represented the top firearm technology of its day, just as the AR-15 does now. Naturally, the educated men who framed the national charter understood that weapons technology would advance like any other technology. Conversely, sound principles are by definition unchanging—with the principles of self-defense and national defense being definitive in America’s founding—regardless of the weapons technology at any given time.
The mainstream media, meanwhile, uses loaded terms like “assault weapon” regarding the AR-15, even though any weapon is best defined by the circumstances of its usage. In other words, an AR-15, a .38 revolver, a baseball bat, or a meat cleaver are all “assault weapons” if used unlawfully in an actual assault. But an AR-15 or any other weapon is a defense weapon when lawfully used to “defend the realm” from an assault.
And while all the talk of nixing the Second Amendment and banning so-called assault weapons only pertains to civilian-owned firearms, the government’s abuse of its own firepower is undeniably evident—from police shooting citizens without just cause to the military unlawfully bombing nations with which the U.S. is not at war.
It is worth noting that the Second Amendment is largely bulletproof despite groups like the Conference of the States (CS) seeking to amend the Constitution, according to Cindy Nation, a volunteer for the Conference of the States, an organization based in Houston.
Ms. Nation assured AFP that existing calls for a formal Conference of the States to propose constitutional changes are designed to be strictly limited.
Her group wants to convene such a conference to, among other things, insert term limits for all federal officials into the Constitution, which would require ratification by 38 states under Article V of the Constitution.
However, repealing the Second Amendment appears to be impossible, she said, since none of the CS groups of which she’s aware have any known intentions of touching that amendment.
Besides, “It’s against the rules to add amendment topics later outside the framework of the initial topics with which states apply for a [CS],” she said.
Still, the bill on Capitol Hill, H.R. 5087, among other anti-gun bills that have taken root lately could gravely erode the Second Amendment due to our country’s current fearful climate.
As of this writing, Congress had been out of session starting March 26. Lawmakers return April 9—making this the perfect time to start calling Congress: 202-224-3121, or 202-225-3121.
Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving editor for AFP. Email him at [email protected].