By Chris White
Left-leaning members of the media who are worried about upcoming elections want retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens to stop suggesting lawmakers repeal the Second Amendment.
The Washington Post and Think Progress writers don’t want Stevens’ call to amend the U.S. Constitution to rile up gun-owning, blue-collar workers before the November election. They are asking the 97-year-old former jurist to keep his opinions about gun control to himself.
“It’s a provocative claim, but it also raises serious questions about what planet Justice Stevens is living on,” Think Progress editor Ian Millhiser wrote Tuesday in reference to a The New York Times editorial Stevens wrote, suggesting Republicans and Democrats eliminate the Second Amendment.
“There is nothing ‘simple’ about removing a constitutional amendment,” Millhiser noted before suggesting the move could reshape a sizable portion of the electorate. Polling firm SurveyMonkey published maps from its 2016 presidential election exit polls in October 2017, which showed voters who reported living in a gun-owning household overwhelmingly backed President Donald Trump.
WaPo reporter Aaron Blake’s analysis of Stevens’ position was a little more to the point.
“[R]arely do we see such an unhelpful, untimely and fanciful idea as the one put forward by retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens,” Blake wrote in a Tuesday analysis trashing the former justice’s position.
“The move might as well be considered an in-kind contribution to the National Rifle Association, to Republicans’ efforts to keep the House and Senate in 2018, and to President Trump’s 2020 reelection bid,” Blake argued. Democrats and activists have been working night and day to push a battery of gun control legislation since a spate of February shootings.
“This is exactly the kind of thing that motivates the right and signals to working-class swing voters that perhaps the Democratic Party and the political left doesn’t really get them. And to the extent it catches on — which it could somewhat, given nearly half the party is on board, at least in spirit — it will confirm plenty of preexisting beliefs about what Democrats actually want,” Blake added.
Stevens, who retired in 2010, wrote the principal dissent in D.C. v. Heller, a landmark case that affirmed for the first time the right to maintain firearms in the home for self-defense. Stevens, alongside Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, argued the amendment secures the right to possess guns in connection with service in state militias.
The provision was included in the Bill of Rights, Stevens wrote in his dissent, given national anxieties about the tyrannical potential of a permanent standing army. He further pointed to the simultaneous provisions of state constitutions that explicitly establish a right to keep firearms for self-defense, in contrast to the federal Constitution, which mentions guns only in the context of militias.