Skip to comments.Bent Amendment: Justice Stevens can't shoot straight
Posted on 05/15/2014 3:28:36 PM PDT by Daniel Clark
Bent Amendment: Justice Stevens cant shoot straight
by Daniel Clark
Judging from the way that former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens writes about the Second Amendment, he must think the American people have a right to gopher brains, instead of a right to bear arms.
Last month, Stevens penned an op-ed to promote his new book, Six Amendments, in which he explains how he would change the Constitution. In his editorial, the 35-year veteran of the High Court proposes a change to the Second Amendment, his perceived necessity of which undercuts his long-held interpretation of the amendment as it exists.
Stevens would insert the words, when serving in the Militia, to make the Second Amendment 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. This, despite his contention that the meaning has been there all along.
Employing the judicial equivalent of the settled science ruse, he makes the preposterous claim that since the amendment was ratified, federal judges uniformly understood that it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and that it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Even if that were true, it would only mean that federal judges have been uniformly wrong.
Stevens misunderstanding (if we may charitably call it that) begins with his failure to grasp the concept of a militia. Our founders did not take that to mean a government-created entity akin to the National Guard. In fact, it would be nonsensical for military personnel to be guaranteed a right to keep and bear arms theyd be required to carry anyway. In the context of the Second Amendment, the militia and the people are one and the same. George Mason, one of the leading advocates and creators of the Bill of Rights, himself defined the militia as the whole of the people. Stevens proposed addition is therefore redundant, in that it would guarantee a right to people for as long as they remain a part of the whole of the people.
Regulated, in non-governmental terms, means in good order. A well-regulated militia, then, is one whose members are proficient in the use of firearms, and can be organized on short notice. If Stevens would deprive people of a right to arm themselves until the moment they're called upon to do so, they could not possibly be well-regulated.
As for his contention that the Second Amendment doesnt constrain state and local governments, its authors could have easily drafted an amendment that agreed with his prejudices, if only theyd wanted to. The First Amendment, for example, guarantees only that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or free exercise of religion. Certain abridgments are therefore allowable at the state and local level, hence the truth behind the tiresome shouting fire in a crowded theater example. The Second Amendment does not specify a limitation on Congress. Instead, it says, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. How willfully oblivious must one be to conclude that this means a state government may infringe upon the right of the people to keep and bear arms?
The language of the Second Amendment does not invite a debate over whether a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state. It simply states that this is so, and that therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. There are no ifs about it.
For 35 years, Justice Stevens saw in the law what he wanted to see, whether it was really there or not. So why bother proposing to change the law now, if hes never considered it relevant anyway?
Since Stevens retired, theres been nothing in the law to compel his successors to rule the same way he did. Hes already found this to be true where the Second Amendment is concerned, in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, so he belatedly suggests that the written law be properly amended.
What a harsh lesson for a liberal judge to learn. His whole career, he had given himself the illusion of godlike power. Now he sees that the feelings on which he based his decisions wont last any longer than he does. Neither will this hackneyed proposal to create the Constitution hes always said existed, but hasnt.
-- Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.
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Stevens misunderstanding (if we may charitably call it that) begins with his failure to grasp the concept of a militia.
I would argue that Stevens' major malfunction is a dent in the brain pan, but it would be too charitable of me to attribute his wrongheaded idea to a mental defect when it is so obviously attributable to ideological malice aforethought.
Having said that, his misunderstanding begins, IMHO, with basic grammar. As Justice Scalia wrote in Heller:
The Second Amendment is naturally divided into two parts: its prefatory clause and its operative clause. The former does not limit the latter grammatically, but rather announces a purpose. The Amendment could be rephrased, Because a well regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. (Emphasis mine.)If we're to rephrase the Second Amendment solely for the sake of clarity, I vote we use Scalia's text.
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.
Dementia? Has to be.
He thinks he is smarter than the collection of the greatest minds ever to get together and produce the greatest document (after the bible) ever. Sort of like Slow Joe Biden making corrections to the bible.
Right on the mark. People like Stevens had no business on the Court in the first place if they can’t uphold the Constitution. The upholding of our Constitution should be the first priority of the Court & any other position is unacceptable. We seem to have some more retirements that would be in order.
How do the People regulate the militia if they can only have weapons while serving in the militia?