On Monday, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote an op-ed in that most venerable paper of record, the New York Times, in which he calls for a repeal of the Second Amendment, the constitutional basis for the “right” to bear arms, calling it a “more effective and more lasting reform” than stricter gun control laws.
And although ole nitpicky me takes umbrage at his very first sentence, which reads, “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” (dude, you were born in 1920—you’ve seen ALL the demonstrations, including the entire civil rights movement), I’m still down with JPS.
In the op-ed, Stevens—a President Gerald Ford appointee who retired from the high court in 2010—says that the way the amendment was written was made for the olden days.
“Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of 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,’” Stevens wrote. “Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.”
He also named a 2008 case, District of Columbia v. Heller, in which he, the “liberal,” dissented, as a turning point. That case upended a “long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach,” he said, and gave the National Rifle Association “a propaganda weapon of immense power,” which means that now we have scores of private citizens with war-grade weaponry like the AR-15 in their possession.
“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 wrote.
As it now stands, the only amendment of the U.S. Constitution ever repealed was the 18th Amendment, which prohibited alcohol, and it was done through the ratification of the 21st Amendment.
Because it would take a two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as 75 percent of state legislatures, to repeal the Second Amendment, it probably doesn’t have a chance in hell of passing—at least for the foreseeable future.
But if more old white dudes with power start speaking out, less radical alternatives to overturning the Second Amendment—like, oh, I don’t know, banning semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15, and more regulation around gun training and age limits for gun ownership—just might play.
God knows a bunch of black people marching in the street ain’t gonna do it.