The Framers of the Constitution recognized the right to bear arms as a natural, God-given right – not a right granted by the government – which means repealing the Second Amendment would not eliminate that right, argues a leading gun-rights advocate.
“When you look at the way the Second Amendment was written, it does not grant or create a right. It does not say the people ‘have’ the right to keep and bear arms. It says that ‘a right’ of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” said Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America in an interview with WND.
“That is assuming a pre-existing right, which now cannot be infringed in any way by the civil government,” he said.
Pratt noted the reference in the Declaration of Independence to the inalienable rights granted by the Creator.
“They recognized the right to self-defense as a God-given right,” he argued, noting the Declaration specifies life and liberty as two of the rights endowed by God.
“So, defense of life just flows naturally out of that. There’s no question, when you go through the statements of the Founders, they refer to the laws of nature and nature’s God,” he said.
Stevens believes the landmark 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case Heller vs. Chicago, which affirmed the Second Amendment recognizes an individual right to bear arms, was wrongly decided. The former associate justice contends the Second Amendment was motivated by a concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states.
That concern now, he insisted in his Times op-ed, is a “relic of the 18th century.”
But Pratt argues that the Supreme Court has ruled that “the right of the people” means the same thing in the First and Fourth Amendments as it does in the Second.
“You just can’t do that to the language of the Constitution, otherwise we’ll end up forfeiting all our rights,” he said.
From the left, Laurence Tribe, a prominent professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, wrote on Twitter that he admires Stevens but criticized the former justice’s supposedly “simple but dramatic” step of repealing the Second Amendment as “awful advice.”
“The obstacle to strong gun laws is political, not legal. Urging a politically impossible effort just strengthens opponents of achievable reform,” Tribe wrote.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty commended Stevens for being candid about his intentions, unlike most of his colleagues on the left.
“I prefer a straightforward John Paul Stevens ‘repeal the Second Amendment’ argument to the ‘we just want simple, commonsense solutions like Australia’s mandatory buyback program’ double talk,” he tweeted.
Pratt noted that at the March for Our Lives demonstrations on Saturday, pressing for more gun control, his organization went on the streets and interviewed protesters, finding many who declared they want to ban guns.
He also pointed out that Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said after the Sandy Hook shooting that gun confiscation could be an option, and the New York Times and the Washington Post have said the same.
“The fact that you have some openly stating it shows, for them, what is the end zone,” Pratt said.
“I do think that agenda is there. They try to deny it and use more moderate terms like common-sense gun-control, but obviously we see through that thin veneer.”
He believes Stevens’ call for repeal is a call to vigilance on the part of Second Amendment defenders, but he said “our guys already know where the other side wants to go.”
The strategy, he said, has been to deploy a piecemeal, “nickel and dime” approach.
“A little restriction here and a little restriction there,” Pratt said. “And they do it in open violation of the clear language of the Second Amendment, which says ‘shall not be infringed.’”
Grant Stinchfield of the National Rifle Association’s NRA TV argued Tuesday in an Internet broadcast that the Second Amendment protects citizens “from evil.”
“Our Founding Fathers knew that the right of self-protection was … fundamental to a free society,” he said.
Stinchfield said he has long believes that “the ultimate goal of the left is repeal of the Second Amendment.’
“This is proof, my friends,” he said of Stevens’ op-ed, noting many have called him “crazy, pushing conspiracy theories, paranoid” for making such a claim.
Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman wrote that he has “great respect” for Stevens and agrees with him that the Heller case was wrongly decided, but he contends it would be a “terrible idea to attempt a repeal of the Second Amendment just because the Supreme Court got it wrong.”
“Experience shows that the Constitution is weakened if we respond to bad Supreme Court precedent by trying to amend it right away,” he argued.
“James Madison understood this very well. He hoped for the Constitution to ultimately earn ‘veneration.’ Although he recognized that the Constitution had to allow for amendment, he also wanted to avoid the rush to change that would have come with further constitutional conventions, which he hoped to hold off.”
Feldman said that “amending the Constitution just because the Supreme Court may have taken its interpretation too far would undercut the very idea that the justices have the authority to interpret the Constitution to apply and expand basic rights.”
“Live by the judicial interpretation, die by the judicial interpretation.”
Steve Chapman, a member of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, wrote that Stevens is “wrong on both substantive and political grounds.”
He argued it’s politically impossible because a constitutional amendment requires ratification by 38 states. noting Donald Trump carried 30 in the 2016 election.
“For the foreseeable future, that has zero chance of happening,” he said.
Secondly, he said many gun owners agree on the need for some regulation, but once they become convinced that the debate is about eliminating a constitutional right, they will view any new regulation as a step toward total confiscation.
Feldman said repeal also is unnecessary, because the Supreme Court acknowledged even in the Heller case that the Constitution allows various types of regulation.
“The changes that are being seriously proposed today are not likely to be struck down for infringing on the Second Amendment,” he said, including background checks and age restrictions.
Dem lawmaker: No ‘right to bear bullets’
Meanwhile, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is proposing a federal law that would require background checks for people who buy ammunition.
“You do not have the right to bear bullets,” she said at Monday a news conference at the Pembroke Pines Police Department.
She was joined by political leaders, a police representative and teachers and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting Feb. 14, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
“I really think it’s important to underscore that without bullets a gun is just a hunk of useless metal, and a would-be killer lacks the means to actually kill or maim,” she said.
Convicted felons, domestic abusers and dangerously mentally ill people already are banned from buying firearms and ammunition.
The paper pointed out the proposal wouldn’t have prevented the Parkland shooting or the Oct. 1 shooting that killed 58 in Las Vegas.