2nd Amendment needs tweak, retired justice says


Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens — upset by the “misuse of firearms” in mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook  — has found a way to fix the Second Amendment, he writes in an op-ed for the Washington Post.

For more than 200 years, Stevens says, the Second Amendment was interpreted correctly. “Federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms,” Stevens writes.

Stevens mentions the campaign the NRA waged on behalf of gun rights and then cites his colleague, Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Nixon appointee, who in a 1991 interview “remarked that 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 in my lifetime.’ ”

Two relatively recent Supreme Court decisions — District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 and McDonald v. Chicago in 2010 — “misinterpreted the law and were profoundly unwise,” says Stevens, who seems to be particularly concerned about protecting state rights from federal interference.

So Stevens, a Ford appointee, has a suggestion: “Adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment” would “make it unambiguously conform to the original intent of its draftsmen. As so amended, it would 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.”

You can read Stevens’ op-ed in its entirety here. It’s an excerpt from his new book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.