We ignored the recent reiteration of retired Justice John Paul Stevens desire to rewrite the Second Amendment when it was rehashed in the Washington Post.
The fact that an arch-liberal justice knew that he he to re-write the right to turn it into a collective power was confirmation enough that the long-standing existing right is indeed, and always has been a right of the people. It is also our opinion that when it comes to rewriting the specific wording of the Second Amendment to make it more contemporary for today’s language, we did a far better job that Stevens of applying original intent.
Trevor Burrus, however, noted something in Stevens’s progressive tripe that may betray an even deeper problem with the retired Justice’s theories and decisions on Second Amendment cases.
Retired Justice Stevens apparently isn’t educated well enough to tell the different between heavily-regulated selective-fire and military arms covered under the National Firearms Act, and the one-shot-per-trigger pull semi-automatic function which is the most common method of firearm operation in the world:
Stevens’s dissent in Heller, the case in which a 5-4 Court held that the Second Amendment conveys an individual right to own guns even for those not part of a militia, is largely re-hashed in his Washington Post op-ed. In addition, there is, or was, a glaring error that the Post has since corrected sub rosa, that is, without acknowledging at the bottom that the piece was edited. As Josh Blackman originally reported, and thankfully preserved by excerpting, the first version contained this error:
Following the massacre of grammar-school children in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, high-powered automatic weapons have been used to kill innocent victims in more senseless public incidents.
As Josh and others noted, not only were automatic weapons not used at any recent high-profile mass shooting, they’ve been essentially illegal in the U.S. since 1934 and since 1986 they’ve been almost impossible to come by. Justice Stevens also repeated his error a few paragraphs down:
Thus, even as generously construed in Heller, the Second Amendment provides no obstacle to regulations prohibiting the ownership or use of the sorts of automatic weapons used in the tragic multiple killings in Virginia, Colorado and Arizona in recent years.
When you view the piece now, however, the words have magically disappeared. But they have not, apparently, disappeared from Justice Stevens’s book, which went to press with those errors. I don’t have a copy, but I checked by searching the inside of the book on Amazon for the word “automatic.”
A better argument can be made that actual automatic machine guns “spray death.” And if those are what Justice Stevens believes were used at Newtown, then that seems relevant to his position on guns.
Retired Justice John Paul Stevens made decisions on firearms law while apparently not having any idea how firearms work.