A retired Supreme Court justice believes the March for Our Lives protesters are aiming too low by asking lawmakers simply to reform the nation’s gun laws.
“The demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform,” John Paul Stevens wrote in a New York Times op-ed published on Tuesday. “They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.”
Stevens, 97, argues that the amendment — which states “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” — was born out of concern that a “national standing army might pose a threat to the security” of individual states and is “a relic of the 18th century.”
In 2008, Stevens was among four dissenters in the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in a landmark case, District of Columbia v. Heller, that held the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms for self-defense.
“That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power,” Stevens wrote in his op-ed. “Overturning that decision 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.”
Hundreds of thousands of people participated in Saturday’s anti-gun-violence marches in Washington, D.C., and numerous locations throughout the country, demanding Congress act to protect students in the wake of last month’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Many of the demonstrators chastised the gun lobby on signs and in speeches while expressing support for stricter background checks, an increase in the minimum age to buy certain firearms and a ban on semiautomatic weapons. But most did not call for an outright repeal of the Second Amendment as Stevens is suggesting.
“That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform,” he wrote. “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.”
National polls show broad support for measures to reduce gun violence, including universal background checks, age restrictions and a ban on assault weapons. A Fox News poll released on Sunday found 53 percent of American voters believe “protecting citizens from gun violence” is more important than “protecting the right of citizens to own guns,” compared to 40 percent who believe the opposite.
At the White House on Tuesday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said that “the president and the administration still fully support the Second Amendment.”
“We think the focus has to remain on removing weapons from dangerous individuals — not on blocking all Americans from their constitutional rights,” Sanders said.
Meanwhile, gun rights activists say the weekend demonstrations were an “attack” on the Second Amendment.
In Washington on Saturday, David Hogg, a Parkland survivor and one of the organizers of the March for Our Lives, criticized television pundits for painting him as antigun.
“They’ve made it seem like I’m trying to take away people’s guns — that I’m against the Second Amendment,” Hogg said. “My father is a retired FBI agent. I have guns in my house. I’m not against the Second Amendment.”
Cameron Kasky, another Marjory Stoneman Douglas student, made a similar point on “Fox News Sunday.”
“We are not trying to take everybody’s guns away,” Kasky said. “My father was a reserve police officer. We have guns in our house. They are responsibly managed and hidden from anyone but him. The point is, we are not trying to take everybody’s guns away, and the NRA wants people to think that. They are fearmongers. They want to sell weapons by exploiting people’s fears. So the second we want to put common sense resolutions on these assault weapons, the NRA will say they are trying to steal every single one of your guns, and people believe them. Fortunately, the majority of the American people see past this.”
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