Ciboski: On How And Why We Should Change The Constitution

Mar 4, 2020

Retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens discusses some changes he would make to the U.S. Constitution in his recent book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. There are chapters on political gerrymandering, campaign finance, the death penalty, and gun control, among others.

On guns, Justice Stevens notes the Second Amendment was adopted to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were “well regulated.” As a result of more recent rulings, federal judges have the ultimate power to determine the validity of state regulations of both civilian and militia-related uses of arms. Stevens says this anomalous result can be avoided by adding five words to the Second Amendment to make it unambiguously conform to the original intent. With those words, it would now read, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms when serving in the militia, shall not be infringed.” Stevens says that emotional claims that the right to possess deadly weapons is so important that it is protected by the Constitution distorts intelligent debate about the wisdom of proposed legislation that might minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands. Stevens says such arguments would be nullified by the adoption of his proposed amendment. It would not silence the powerful gun lobby, but it would eliminate its ability to advance a mistaken argument.

Another justice, the late Chief Justice Warren Burger, would probably agree with Stevens, as he said in 1991, quote, “The Second Amendment has been the subject of 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.”

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