After a school shooting, it seems to be almost traditional that a discussion about ‘repealing’ or ‘abandoning’ the Second Amendment occurs. Only the most leftist individuals push for such a thing, of course; mainstream democrats realize that it is much too extreme a position and will likely cause losses for their party. But sometimes, even extremist Supreme Court Justices (or retired ones) push for such things.
Justice John Paul Stevens retired from the United States Supreme Court in 2010, after years of taking a very restrictive view of American’s rights. Now, he spends his time opining in the New York Times, continuously pushing a fictional legal history of the Second Amendment and talking about how average citizens really have no right to keep and bear arms, despite the Second Amendment stating precisely that.
In an opinion piece by the former Supreme Court Justice, Stevens reinstates his dissenting view from the widely-cited 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller case.
In that case, Stevens suggested that the Second Amendment offers absolutely no protection for what he commonly termed the right to keep and bear arms “for nonmilitary purposes like hunting and self-defense.”
In his recent article, Stevens, appointed to the Supreme Court by Gerald Ford, continued his claim, long disproven, that for 200 years, the Second Amendment never placed any limit “on federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation.”
Stevens also cited Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger (a Nixon appointee) and his claim that the NRA perpetrated “one of the greatest pieces of fraud… on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime” when it suggested to people that they had an individual right to keep and bear arms.
Justice Stevens, who is 97 years old, has held this opinion of the Second Amendment for decades, so senility is obviously not the issue.
Of course, despite Judge Stevens’ wishful thinking, his take on the legal history of the Second Amendment is completely fabricated and fictional.
The first constitutional law book in American history was St. George Tucker’s View of the Constitution of the United States. It is still sought-after as a historically important legal text.
St. George Tucker wasn’t just a legal mind opining after the fact on the intent of the founding fathers; he was there. He fought in the revolution, he was a professor at one of America’s first law colleges, and he was a colleague of James Madison.
On the topic of the Second Amendment, Tucker wrote that it was the “true palladium of liberty,” and that the right to self-defense “is the first law of nature.”
Tucker believed precisely as the Heller majority view did, and it was the prevailing legal opinion on the matter in the early 1800s.
But Supreme Court Justice Stevens consistently took a narrow view of the idea of rights for citizens.
In 1989, Stevens heard a case known as Texas v. Johnson. This is an important First Amendment case, which resulted in the classification of burning the American flag as protected free speech.
Justice William Brennan wrote the majority opinion, defending free speech, even if it is “offensive or disagreeable” to the citizenry.
Stevens voted against the majority opinion.
In 2011, Stevens said that if he had not retired the year previously, he would have cast a vote to deny First Amendment protections to the Westboro Baptist Church for staging offensive protests outside of military funerals.
During his time on the Supreme Court, Justice Stevens even wrote a horrifically anti-Fifth Amendment opinion in Kelo v. City of New London. According to his majority opinion, a local government can utilize eminent domain to seize legally-owned and occupied property.
Further, that property must not necessarily be seized for ‘public use,’ such as to build a park. Stevens suggested that the property could be taken and sold to developers for malls, condos, and other developments.
Lest you think that Stevens recanted his Kelo opinion, he defended it in 2011, while delivering a speech at the Alabama School of Law.
In other words, while his legal opinion was once ‘respected,’ Justice Stevens was never a believer in individual rights, and his New York Times article contains the same nonsensical claims that he made throughout his legal career.
To be fair to Stevens, at least he never wavered in his belief that American citizens have very few rights, and that the constitution doesn’t prevent governments from infringing on them. Thankfully, he no longer gets to vote on the constitution.
Perhaps best of all, Stevens’ legal ideas seem to be slowly disappearing from the profession.