Nonagenarian John Paul Stevens Leads Children's Crusade To Repeal The Second Amendment
By Don Feder
April 3, 2018
Last week, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens – who learned the Charleston from Amelia Earhart – took one foot out of the grave to advise us that the best way to stop school shootings is to repeal the Second Amendment. As an afterthought, he might have added that the best way to end ISIS recruitment is to get rid of the First Amendment.
Stevens (age 97) was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gerald R. Ford, who was reputed to have had difficulty walking and chewing gum simultaneously. Due to a few votes that adhered to the Constitution, the media labeled JPS a moderate. In fact, on social issues (abortion, gay "rights," firearms possession) JPS was as reliably left as David Souter or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The nonagenarian was turned on by the March for Our Lives. "Rarely have I seen the type of civic engagement school children and their supporters demonstrated," JPS gushed in an opinion piece for The New York Times. "These demonstrators demand our respect. They reveal broad public support for legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of school children and others in our society."
Stevens' broad public support consisted mostly of the same fringe elements (including rabid feminists and members of the cause-of-the-month club) who dominated last year's Women's March. It's estimated that only 10% of the marchers were teens. According to a random survey, demonstrators were motivated less by guns than by the usual litany of liberal causes, among them peace (56%) and loathing of the president (42%).
Would Stevens describe the hundreds of thousands who come to Washington for the annual March for Life as civically engaged? Does the fact that they've been doing it for 45 years make them worthy of his respect?
Still, JPS has rendered an invaluable public service by bringing the "gun-reform movement" out of the closet. Banning semi-automatics, raising the legal-age for gun ownership and what are designated more comprehensive background checks are appetizers. The main course is repeal of the Second Amendment, which Stevens calls "a relic of the 18th century." Representative government and the formal recognition of rights that limit state action are also relics of the 18th century.
The ex-Justice continues to argue (as he did in the dissent in District of Columbia v Heller, 2008) that the Second Amendment refers only to state militias, not to individuals (as liberal law professors professed for decades) – that it guaranteed that these forces would always possess the means to check a standing army.
This ignores the fact that, like "the right of the people to keep and bear arms," everywhere else in the Constitution where the rights of the people are acknowledged, it refers not to a collective but to an individual right.
Stevens believes that the Second Amendment – which could not be more specific – does not guarantee an individual right, but the First Amendment (which fails to mention privacy, pregnancy or Planned Parenthood) guarantees a right to abortion, and the 14th Amendment (which says nothing about so-called marriage equality) guarantees the right of men to marry men and women to marry women.
Unquestionably, individuals have a right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families and their homes – but also as a deterrent to people like John Paul Stevens.
Every 20th century tyranny was preceded by gun confiscation. Thomas Jefferson (not one of my favorite presidents) was prophetic when he wrote in a 1787 letter to Second Amendment author James Madison: "What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that the people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms."
Adolf Hitler said: "The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow subject races to possess arms." The Warsaw Ghetto uprising showed what subject races could do – against overwhelming odds – when they got their hands on guns. Stalin, Mao, Fidel, and Pol Pot all pursued domestic disarmament to bolster their regimes.
Gun control (which aims at eventual prohibition) is the liberals all-purpose anti-crime panacea. Why school shootings? Too many guns in private hands. Why other mass homicides? Too many guns in private hands. Why do so many metropolitan areas resemble Syria and Afghanistan? Why is Chicago's homicide rate through the roof? Too many guns.
Fatherless families, drugs, a blood-drenched entertainment media? All irrelevant and inconsequential for JPS, The New York Times, the publicity Hogg and other anti-gun fanatics.
The Founding Fathers, who ratified the Second Amendment, understood that human nature is flawed and evil is a powerful reality. Those with Stevens' mindset believe it's forces outside the individual (guns, guns, guns!) responsible for tragedies like the Parkland homicides and the Las Vegas massacre.
Until the Democratic Party has the presidency, a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and control of three-quarters of the state legislatures, talk of repealing the Second Amendment is empty rhetoric.
If liberals are counting on guns to turn out the vote for their side, they will be sorely disappointed. Except for lifetime NRA members on one side, and doctrinaire knee-jerks on the other, voters don't storm polling places spurred by the gun debate.
In a 2016 Pew Research poll of registered voters on which issues they consider "very important," gun policy came in 7th, behind the economy, terrorism, immigration, foreign policy, health care and Supreme Court appointments – but ahead of such burning questions as "treatment of gay, lesbian, transgender people."
The danger here is that the gun gambit will depress the Red State vote – that skittish Republicans can be stampeded into compromising, so as not to offend the mythical middle, like banning certain types of semi-automatics and raising the legal age of gun ownership to 19.5 years. Republicans are great difference-splitters.
If that happens, fewer gun owners, hunters and Second Amendment enthusiasts will vote in this crucial election. That means everyone on the right loses. Those who care primarily about guns would vote against Democratic congressional candidates committed to "meaningful gun reform." In so doing, they will also inadvertently vote against candidates who are pro-abortion, anti-border security and in favor of advancing the rights of the gender-confused.
In an off-year election, it's all about turning out your base. News flash: The GOP base does not include 17-year-olds on a power trip, those who believe (against the overwhelming weight of evidence) that fewer guns equal less crime, celebrities whose hatred of Trump borders on the pathological, and those who think the Second Amendment is a relic of the 18th century.
John Paul Stevens is probably planning to lead the next children's march to repeal the Second Amendment, if he can have the tires on his walker rotated in time.
Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains a Facebook page.