Well, look at me, critiquing the opinions of a Supreme Court Justice. The good Justice can relax, I approve of his work.
It is my pleasure to post a diary reviewing the newest book penned by retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, "Six Amendments - How And Why We Should Change the Constitution". This is my first diary, so please be gentle with me.
As I write this, there are visions in my head of Governor Nathan Deal and his homeys grinning like a pack of deranged hyenas as they sign the "Death Warrant for Georgian Citizens" law. There are images of the yahoos with their new-found freedoms to legally brandish weapons around children and intentionally intimidate others, and the gleeful "I have a gun and there's nothing you can do about it" spiking of the ball. The juxtaposition of these despicable acts and the release of Justice Stevens book is nothing short of stunning.
To begin, Justice Steven's book proposes changes in or additions to wording that could (and should) be made to the Constitution. These recommended changes are thoughtful and reasoned, and would further the goal of creating a more perfect union. Amendments that Justice Stevens recommends for such changes include the "Anti Commandeering Rule", Political Gerrymandering, Campaign Finance, Sovereign Immunity, The Death Penalty and the Second Amendment (Gun Control). I cannot find any instances on these subjects with which the Justice and I disagree, but for purposes of this diary, discussion will focus on The Second Amendment.
Full disclosure: my hatred of guns is long standing, deep and absolute. My reasons for this hatred are several, personal and not born of ignorance about guns; rather, it is rooted in an intimate knowledge and familiarity of what guns are and what guns do. Guns are instruments of death, nothing more, nothing less. At the risk of sounding arrogant I will state that my reasons for hating guns are better than any reason anyone could have for loving guns. There is not a gun on the face of this planet which is pro-life. I believe the 2nd Amendment has been perverted by special interest. I find the agenda of the NRA to be murderous, dishonest and immoral. I think that gun control is one of the most pressing issues of our time and may be approaching crisis stage. I believe that firearms belong exclusively in the realms of the military and law enforcement.
That said, I acknowledge, albeit reluctantly, that guns are a necessary evil in today's world. It is easy to declare that the 2nd Amendment has, like the electoral college, outlived its original purpose and intent. As much as I wish that the 2nd Amendment could be entirely repealed, that is not likely to happen, nor is it practical. There is a need for the amendment. For how else would there be a baseline for establishing rights and control without this amendment? But the amendment as currently worded is deeply flawed.
More below the orange gunshot wound scar.
It is clear that the events in Aurora, Tucson and Sandy Hook together with all the other gun related tragedies plaguing America, have had a profound effect on Justice Stevens and may have prompted him to strongly consider making his views known regarding the 2nd Amendment. He cites frightening statistics about gun deaths in the U.S. and states that "The adoption of rules that will lessen the number of those incidents should be a matter of primary concern to both state and federal legislatures". He makes the case that it is legislators rather than federal judges that should define the restrictions on ownership and use of firearms.
According to Justice Stevens, for the greater part of the last 200 years, federal judges have uniformly understood that the right protected by the 2nd Amendment was limited: it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes and did not impose any limits on the power of the government to regulate ownership and use of firearms. He notes that during the Warren Burger years there was no doubt about the limited coverage of the amendment. Enter the NRA.
The NRA and other pro-gun organizations disagreed with that interpretation and vigorously challenged that position. In 1992, five years after his retirement, Burger stated that the 2nd Amendment "has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word 'fraud,' on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."
Stevens posits that five words added to the text of the amendment can make it conform to what justices over most of the last 200 years believe is the original intent of its writers.
"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."
The Justice asserts that these 5 words can nullify the emotional arguments that so often distort any intelligent debate about the wisdom of gun control. While not silencing the NRA, it would de-fang its ability to advance a false argument.
There is an abundance of wisdom and vital information and history available to all in this new work. A strong and compelling argument is made for each of the suggestions. I hesitate to summarize everything on this subject because the whole text really should be read in his own words. There should be intelligent discussion about his proposals, which are worthy of serious consideration by serious people. It is a national tragedy and moral failure of our leadership that no steps have been taken to remedy the current spate of gun violence. Their hesitance to act is not in our national interest and puts too many citizens at risk.
Justice Stevens' book may be short, but it is efficient. Part of the seeming shortness is probably because enough of such insight cannot be had - more is wanted. It is easily understandable and articulate and eloquent. No legal training is needed in order to comprehend the arguments. This book is required reading for anyone interested in a fair and decent society.
I will end my discussion where Justice Stevens begins: the summary of his prologue. The last 6 words of his statement may be the only words with which I slightly disagree. We are already there.
"As time passes, I am confident that the soundness of each of my proposals will become more and more evident, and ultimately each will be adopted. The purpose of this book is to expedite that process and to avoid future crises before they occur".
As Congress cowers and trembles at the mention of the NRA, as Georgia and other states trend toward the adoption of insane "Guns Everywhere" laws, and as we read every day about another preventable gun death, the urgency of Justice Steven's proposal becomes obvious. Let's hope that his confidence that these changes will come about is well placed.