Wednesday, March 28, 2018

3 Cheers for John Paul Stevens!

Some time ago I watched a Netflix series on Prohibition. I was struck by the confidence felt by the Prohibitionists once they had succeeded in getting the 18th Amendment passed. No constitutional amendment had ever before been repealed. So it was believed that once enacted prohibition was here to stay. History, however, did not quite work out that way, and if fact Prohibition became in fact the first - and so far the only - constitutional amendment to be repealed 

That said, amending the constitution is at best a legally difficult and politically challenging process. To succeed, most amendments have required considerable consensus to make it through the constitutional obstacle course that is the amending process. Even so, although the country remained quite polarized around Prohibition, repeal of the 18th Amendment proved possible in the end. The same might in time prove true of other harmful constitutional provisions - most notably the notorious Second Amendment, which (especially since its distortion into an individual "right" by the Supreme Court a decade ago) has become a major political and cultural obstacle to sanity and morality when it comes to the private possession of weapons of mass destruction (i.e., guns).

So three cheers for Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens' op-ed in today's New York Times calling for an outright repeal of the Second Amendment! To read it, go to:

Appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975, Stevens became the third longest-serving US Supreme Court Justice, retiring in 2010.  He was among the four dissenters in the infamous District of Columbia v. Heller decision, which, he reminds us in his article, overturned  the "long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling... that there was an individual right to bear arms." Stevens continues:

That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.
Of course, as Stevens surely understands, repealing the Second Amendment would be far from "simple." Still, especially given the catastrophic consequences of the wrongly decided Heller case, what other course of action is there? As with Prohibition, which also pitted rural America versus urban America and the past versus the future, the obvious course - however difficult and challenging - is actually hiding in plain sight. Justice Stevens has done his country a great service by simply saying so!

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