Retired SCOTUS Justice John Paul Stevens (who is now 97 years old) has written a NY Times op-ed piece calling for the elimination of the Second Amendment. The reason he gives is this:

Rarely in my lifetime have I seen the type of civic engagement schoolchildren and their supporters demonstrated in Washington and other major cities throughout the country this past Saturday. These demonstrations demand our respect. They reveal the broad public support for legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren and others in our society.

…But the demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform. They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.

As Ann Althouse writes:

…[T]he idea that you’d excise a right from the Constitution to “weaken” a lobbying group that “stymie[s] legislative debate” is repellant. Notice the motive of restricting speech. A group speaks too powerfully; we need to change the Constitution.

Stevens concludes:

That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform.

We should remove rights from the Constitution because it would be dramatic and because it would move marchers closer to their objective??

I am very sad to see Justice Stevens writing like that, but he’s made this proposal before [in a 2014 book].

What is somewhat new, however, is that the anti-2nd-Amendment folks are generally becoming less shy about their true aims regarding the Constitution. But even that was foreshadowed in 2013, when the NY Times published an op-ed by Louis Michael Seidman, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown, in which he basically said many of the Constitution’s provisions are “archaic, idiosyncratic, and downright evil” (Professor Jacobson weighed in on Professor Seidman’s op-ed here, and I wrote about Seidman’s piece here).

Justice Stevens was the author of a dissent in Heller. Perhaps now he sees an opportunity, looking at MSM coverage of the protests, to rally the troops for the big prize that has so far eluded gun opponents, 2nd Amendment repeal.

It is one of those ironic facts of life that Stevens (who retired in 2010) was one of a number of justices originally appointed by Republicans, and thought to be at least moderately conservative, who turned more liberal over time. He often served as the “swing” vote on the Court. First appointed to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by Richard Nixon and with a conservative record as a jurist, Stevens was then nominated by Gerald Ford to SCOTUS. But Stevens later said (2005) that “learning on the job” was important. In addition, “a 2003 statistical analysis of Supreme Court voting patterns found Stevens the most liberal member of the Court.”

That’s quite a change.

I have a theory about the relative prevalence of conservative-to-liberal drift among judges and justices. It is my observation that people tend to enjoy power, and when they get power they often like to expand it if possible. A SCOTUS justice has a lot of power to determine the course of events; more power than most non-elected people in this country ever get. Liberal judges tend to be in favor of not limiting themselves to things such as the language of the Constitution. They are more likely than conservatives to see “penumbras” in the law and want to follow its supposed spirit rather than its letter, and to regard the Constitution as a living, changing document. Pleased with their own power, they see themselves as just the people to lead others who wish to change what those old, archaic, and downright evil framers put in place.

I would imagine it’s a temptation that’s hard to resist, even for some justices who start out as conservatives.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.