In yesterday’s New York Times, Justice John Paul Stevens penned an interesting op-ed:
Demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform. They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.
Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides 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.” Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.
For over 200 years after the adoption of the Second Amendment, it was uniformly understood as not placing any limit on either federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation. In 1939 the Supreme Court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated militia.”
I like this approach, not only because it is good policy, but also because it gives leverage to Democrats. Right now, Republicans frame the debate as if Democrats want to ban guns; the problem for gun control advocates is that Democrats do not advocate for an approach that strong. Therefore, Democrats end up starting negotiations from a place of weakness.
We need to show strength on this issue.