Retired Justice John Paul Stevens: ‘There’s no need for all the guns’ in America

May 14, 2019

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens: ‘There’s no need for all the guns’ in America Erik Cox Photography / Shutterstock.com

A former Supreme Court justice just came out in support of strict gun control reforms, demonstrating how even the most experienced judges can get it wrong when it comes to the Second Amendment.

In an interview with the Washington Post, retired Justice John Paul Stevens railed against the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller and said, “there’s no need for all the guns we have in the country and if I could get rid of one thing it would be to get rid of that whole gun climate.”

Gun-grabbing justice

Stevens, who retired in 2010, wrote the dissenting opinion in the landmark 2008 case, which is widely considered to have reinforced the constitutional protections applied to gun ownership by individual citizens. He describes the high court’s deliberations in the case in an upcoming book, The Making of a Justice: Reflections on My First 94 Years.

According to Stevens, he starting writing his dissent to persuade Justices Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy to see things his way, but ultimately failed when they sided with Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion.

“Unquestionably the most clearly incorrect decision that the Court announced during my tenure on the bench,” Stevens told the Post. “Just the other day there was another school shooting in Colorado, and every time it happens, it seems to me we don’t have to have this kind of thing in this country, and we should do everything we can to try to change it.”

Turning over a new leaf

Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1975 by President Gerald Ford, Stevens was a registered Republican when he ascended to the high court. However, in more than three decades on the bench, Stevens found himself increasingly siding with the court’s liberal majority in several groundbreaking decisions.

Post-retirement, Stevens has been an outspoken advocate for gun control. After the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times calling for a complete repeal of the Second Amendment.

Stevens joins many gun rights activists in believing that the Second Amendment was designed to give citizens the ability to resist a tyrannical government. Unlike 2A supporters, however, the former justice believes that this threat has disappeared since colonial times.

“Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that ‘a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,’” he wrote in his opinion piece for the Times. “Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.”

The Making of a Justice is scheduled to be released on Tuesday.  The biography is described as “a tale of a privileged childhood in Chicago, the ravages of the Great Depression and a family scandal, service as a wartime cryptologist and a charmed legal career as a Supreme Court clerk, appeals court judge and the third-longest-serving justice in the court’s history.”

A new era

As part of an effort to promote his book, Stevens has also been inverviewed by other media outlets in recent days. He spoke with the Wall Street Journal about President Donald Trump’s ongoing fight with House Democrats to keep sections of the special counsel’s Russia report redacted.

Stevens said “the correct view is pretty clear” and cited legal precedent holding that the president is not above the law.

During his first two years in office, Trump has been successful at recovering a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Based on Stevens’ radical legal opinions, the significance of these appointments can not be overstated.

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Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Jewish News Syndicate.