Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens penned a passionate plea for the repeal of the Second Amendment in a New York Times op-ed on Tuesday.
“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,” Stevens wrote. “These demonstrations demand our respect.”
Before his retirement in 2010, John Paul Stevens became the third-longest serving justice in the history of the United States Supreme Court. Stevens was nominated to the court in 1975 by former President Gerald Ford, a Republican, but over time Stevens became known for his more liberal views.
In his op-ed, Stevens says that lawmakers should take notice of the growing movement for new gun control regulations — calling for the raising of the minimum purchase age to 21, a ban on the sale of semi-automatic rifles, and comprehensive background checks on all sales.
But Stevens implores the students leading the movement to take their demands one step further. “But the demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform,” he adds. “They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.”
Stevens acknowledges that the Second Amendment was created to safeguard against government tyranny, but says that concern is “a relic of the 18th century.”
“In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms,” he writes. “I was among the four dissenters.”
Stevens calls the Heller decision “wrong” and says it provided a propaganda weapon to the National Rifle Association:
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. 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.
“It would eliminate the only legal rule that protects sellers of firearms in the United States — unlike every other market in the world,” Stevens concludes. “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.”