Retired U.S. Supreme Court justice and GOP appointee, John Paul Stevens, age 97, has increased the controversy surrounding gun debates by declaring that the 2nd Amendment be repealed. This constitutional Amendment is famous for declaring 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,” and has become the backbone of conservative opposition to any attempts to limit the sale of certain types of guns.
Repealing the 2nd Amendment is very unlikely to happen, at least in the near future, but having such a suggestion by a former Supreme Court justice who was a GOP appointee is a strong poke at the gun lobby beehive. Stevens’ op-ed in the New York Times is highly controversial, not only for its unorthodox suggestion, but because it might further galvanize the political right against compromise. Despite ultra-conservative pundits wailing about liberals “wanting to take our guns,” the actual gun rights debate has largely been focused on limited tools like banning high-capacity magazines, increasing the rigor of background checks, and raising the age from 18 to 21 to purchase long guns.
Stevens asserts that the 2nd Amendment was written for a different era. In December 1791, when the Bill of Rights (containing the 2nd Amendment) was ratified by the states, there was a rough parity between a civilian with a rifle and a soldier with a rifle. You could fire one shot per minute, had limited range, and a rifle was a much greater portion of your income than it is today. The idea that civilians armed with rifles and muskets could defend themselves against the army of a corrupt and brutal president was feasible in 1791. Today, however, the notion that we still need to preserve the 2nd Amendment so that civilians can overthrow a tyrannical and abusive president is unrealistic. AR-15s or any civilian arms versus tanks, helicopters, and other military force are not realistic chances at success. Changes in technology and defense spending have rendered the “overthrowing a tyrant” an obsolete reason for the 2nd Amendment In essence, the stronger the military becomes, the more the argument of overthrowing a tyrannical government using guns as justification for the 2nd amendment becomes.
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