Readers React: John Paul Stevens’ tweak to the 2nd Amendment could reduce gun violence

Then-Associate Justice of the Supreme Court John Paul Stevens in 2006.
Then-Associate Justice of the Supreme Court John Paul Stevens in 2006.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

To the editor: Legal scholars James Phillips’ and John Yoo’s mid-article comparison of the 2nd Amendment to the 1st Amendment is greatly misplaced.

The 1st Amendment prohibits Congress from taking away individual freedoms. The 2nd Amendment clearly states “well-regulated militia” and “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” It does not preclude regulation or convey individual freedoms.

In his book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens quotes the late Chief Justice Warren Burger as saying in 1991 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.”

Stevens submits the following revised 2nd Amendment: “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.”

David M. Barling, Santa Monica



To the editor: It is not surprising that Phillips and Yoo neglected to mention one of the most important parts of the 2008 District of Columbia vs. Heller Supreme Court decision on gun rights.

The majority opinion made clear that the Constitution permits the reasonable regulation of firearms: “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on … laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

The majority opinion went on to say that as with any other right, the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms is not absolute. Phillips, Yoo and the National Rifle Assn. would like us to ignore that wise counsel.

Steve Mehlman, Beaumont


To the editor: Phillips and Yoo mention what few in the mainstream media dare: The 2nd Amendment implies that the right to keep and bear arms is a natural right. Often mischaracterized as a guarantee for public ownership of firearms, the amendment conveys no such thing; rather, it prohibits government from interfering, in any manner, with a right already in place.

The authors place undue emphasis on the right of self-defense, for while it can be construed the amendment recognizes that by deference, it is by no means the basis for its inclusion in the Constitution. The framers believed that the “security of a free state” was protected from enemies by an armed citizenry.

The 2nd Amendment, then, conveys no right to defend oneself against robbers, thieves or murderers, but explicitly bars government from infringing upon the gun rights of citizens for one reason: the preservation of freedom.

Mike Raymond, Bluffton, S.C.


To the editor: The natural rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Absent is the right to blow away your neighbor with an assault weapon.

The authors are concerned about the natural right of self-defense, but seem to care little about the other three. They would benefit from a dose of humanity.

More than 130,000 Americans are injured or killed by guns every year, and the U.S. leads all industrialized, modern nations in the rate of gun deaths.

I think we can do more to preserve the natural right to life. It doesn’t require banning guns, but it does require reasonable restrictions.

Loren Lieb, Northridge

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