Judge Stevens: 5 Words Can Fix 2nd Amendment
Retired Supreme Court justice proposes a remedy
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2014 6:52 PM CDT
Justice John Paul Stevens in 2009.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

(Newser) – Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens argues in the Washington Post that the debate over the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms can be settled with the addition of five words. Here they are, inserted into the amendment in bold:

  • “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.”

In his essay, which is an excerpt from his new book, Stevens writes that those words get back to what the original drafters had mind. It wasn't about personal self-defense—"the notion that the states were concerned about possible infringement of that right by the federal government is really quite absurd." Instead, the amendment was intended to protect "the citizen's right (and duty) to keep and bear arms when serving in a state militia," he writes. This stemmed from states' concerns about a national standing army running roughshod over them, he explains. Recent court opinions have lost sight of this and curbed the government's ability to "minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of weapons in private hands." Click for his full column.

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Showing 3 of 989 comments
Jul 24, 2014 11:35 AM CDT
FOUR WORDS ALREADY FIXED IT. Shall not be infringed. Obey the Bill of Rights, losers.
Apr 29, 2014 9:14 PM CDT
In Silveira v. Lockyer, 328 F.3d 567 (2003), Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reminded us that the Second Amendment is not about duck hunting: "All too many of the other great tragedies of history - Stalin's atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few - were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. ... If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars. "My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed - where the government refuses to stand for re-election and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once. "Fortunately, the Framers were wise enough to entrench the right of the people to keep and bear arms within our constitutional structure. The purpose and importance of that right was still fresh in their minds, and they spelled it out clearly so it would not be forgotten."
Walter F. Picca
Apr 19, 2014 7:05 PM CDT
Ex-Justice Stevens’ –five words added to the Second Amendment-- adds to the problem rather than solves it. The problem: the Second Amendment is a deficient or obsolete statement, like the musket: it needs to be restated: THE NEW SECOND AMENDMENT The right of the elected local, state and the federal government to possess an arsenal of weapons and train a militia to use them for the protection of the people and the enforcement of its laws —when, well regulated and commanded by the proper authorities. The training and arming of militias not under local, state, and federal law is not a right; such as, terrorist and rebellious groups. Individuals also need the right to possess a gun to protect their homes, property, businesses, family,and lives from those who would steal, rape, destroy, and kill. To keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people: The right to require a background check to buy a gun. The right of states or cities to require gun registration. The right to limit the types of guns kept by individuals. The right to deny gun purchase, ownership and possession based on age, criminal record, and mental health conditions. The right to require a special permit to carry a concealed weapon for self protection in public—or work as a security or body-guard. The right to regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition for the safety and protection of the people. The right of the people to control guns: to prevent accidental injuries and deaths, to prevent crimes committed by guns, to prevent rampage killings by the deranged, to prevent and quell riots, and prevent armed rebel groups from overthrowing of a free-state. The people, specifically, means: the ruling majority. The right of the elected government to control the local police, the state and national guards—to accomplish those goals. *************** I don’t think—the Second Amendment—meant: the right of individuals to keep and bear arms to protect the free-state from being toppled. It meant: the right of a well regulated militia to kept and bear arms to protect the free-state from being overthrown by despotic forces. But, the wording is not clear: Is it the right of the state or people to keep and bear arms to protect a democratic or free-state [or both]. Does people mean: individuals—or the people? Who control the militia: the people or the government? Is the people—the government? The old Second Amendment is murky! The way ex-Justice Stevens reworded the Second Amendment: the right to keep and bear arms—would mean: only when serving in a well regulated militia: not a gun for self-protection—as an individual not serving in a militia, which, it does infer. But, it went too far: saying: that right shall not be infringed. The best protection of a Free State: voting rightly.