Ever since the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, a national debate has been rekindled: Do we need more gun control in the United States, or should the Second Amendment be seen as absolute and inviolable?
Now a former justice of the highest court in the land has joined the discussion, and he says it may be time for us to repeal the Second Amendment outright.
In an op-ed that appears in The New York Times this morning, former associate justice John Paul Stevens writes:
“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.”
Stevens also notes that the high court has ruled on several occasions that the right to bear arms is not absolute. The court has allowed the banning of various weapons over the history of our country: In 1939, the justices ruled Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun. And even an ardent conservative like former justice Antonin Scalia declared in the Heller decision that the Second Amendment is not absolute; Congress can ban assault rifles or other weapons of mass murder.
Therefore, Stevens argues, it may be time to repeal the Second Amendment because it’s archaic and not necessary:
“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.”
While Justice Stevens’ proposal is radical, it may well be the only solution to the problem of guns in this country. Let the debate begin.