The Constitutional Right To Bear Arms Has Outlived Its Usefulness

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Illustration by Thomas James

Thursday, November 14, 2013

“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.” –2nd Amendment

Recent mass shooting tragedies have renewed the national debate over the 2nd Amendment. Gun ownership and homicide rates are higher in the U.S. than in any other developed nation, but gun violence has decreased over the last two decades even as gun ownership may be increasing. Over 200 years have passed since James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights, the country has changed, and so have its guns. Is the right to bear arms now at odds with the common good, or is it as necessary today as it was in 1789?

  • Alan-Dershowitz

    For

    Alan Dershowitz

    Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

  • levinson sanford  90pix

    For

    Sanford Levinson

    Professor of Law and of Government, University of Texas

  • Kopel official 90

    Against

    David Kopel

    Research Director, Independence Institute & Associate Policy Analyst, Cato Institute

  • volokh eugene90

    Against

    Eugene Volokh

    Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law


    • Moderator Image

      MODERATOR

      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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Alan-Dershowitz

For The Motion

Alan Dershowitz

Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Alan M. Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, has been called “the nation’s most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer” and one of its “most distinguished defenders of individual rights.” He is a graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School and joined the Harvard Law Faculty at age 25 after clerking for Judge David Bazelon and Justice Arthur Goldberg. He has published more than 1,000 articles in magazines, newspapers, journals and blogs such as The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal and Huffington Post. Dershowitz is the author of numerous bestselling books, and his autobiography, Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law, was recently published by Crown.

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levinson sanford  90pix

For The Motion

Sanford Levinson

Professor of Law and of Government, University of Texas

Sanford Levinson, who holds the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr., Centennial Chair in Law, joined the University of Texas Law School in 1980. Previously a member of the Department of Politics at Princeton University, he is also a Professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas. The author of over 350 articles and book reviews in professional and popular journals--and a regular contributor to the popular blog Balkinization--Levinson is also the author of four books, most recently, Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance (2012). He has edited or co-edited numerous books, including a leading constitutional law casebook Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking (5th ed. 2006). He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association in 2010.

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Kopel official 90

Against The Motion

David Kopel

Research Director, Independence Institute & Associate Policy Analyst, Cato Institute

David B. Kopel is the research director of the Independence Institute, in Denver, and is an associate policy analyst with the Cato Institute, in Washington, D.C. He is also an adjunct professor of Advanced Constitutional Law at Denver University, Sturm College of Law. In 1999 he served as an adjunct professor of law at New York University. He is the author of 16 books and 85 scholarly articles, on topics such as antitrust, constitutional law, counter-terrorism, environmental law, intellectual history, and police practices. His most recent book is Firearms Law and the Second Amendment (2012), the first law school textbook on the subject. Kopel was a member of the Supreme Court oral argument team in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). His Heller and McDonald amicus briefs for a coalition of law enforcement organizations were cited by Justices Alito, Breyer, and Stevens. The federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has lauded his scholarship as showing the proper model of the “originalist interpretive method as applied to the Second Amendment.” He is currently representing 55 Colorado Sheriffs in a federal civil rights lawsuit against anti-gun bills passed by the legislature in March 2013.

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volokh eugene90

Against The Motion

Eugene Volokh

Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

Eugene Volokh teaches First Amendment law and tort law at UCLA School of Law, where he has also taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy. Before coming to UCLA, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and for Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski. Volokh is the author of two textbooks and over 70 law review articles; four of his articles on the Second Amendment have been cited by Supreme Court opinions, as well as by over two dozen opinions from other courts. Volokh is a member of The American Law Institute, a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel, the founder and coauthor of the blog The Volokh Conspiracy, and an Academic Affiliate for the Mayer Brown LLP law firm.

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Declared Winner: For The Motion

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Voting Breakdown:
 

71% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (58% voted FOR twice, 12% voted AGAINST twice, 1% voted UNDECIDED twice). 29% changed their minds (4% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 2% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 5% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 1% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 11% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 6% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST). Breakdown Graphic

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    602 comments

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    • Comment Link George Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:05 posted by George

      Now some people across this country want to blame murder on things like 30 round magazines or semi-automatic rifles. They want too blame something, anything, that they can control but what they really want to ban is violence, and murder, and insanity. Nobody talks about that though because deep in our hearts each of us knows that violence, and murder, and insanity are built into the human condition, and likely always will be.

      You know, there are two kinds of animals in this world: predators, and prey.

      No one watches a leopard chase down a gazelle and denies that the gazelle has a right to use its hooves and horns to protect itself from the predator. But there across the country, who would deny that same right to self-defense to other human beings. Such people seem to think that the way to stop the leopard is to cut the horns off of the gazelle – that by somehow making it easier for the predator, the predator will somehow go away. This is insane. When you make it easier for the predator – you get more predators.

      Let’s start with the so-called “assault weapons,” more properly known as semiautomatic rifles. In 2011, total firearm murders came to 8,583, according to the FBI. During that time, the total murders committed by rifles – ALL rifles, not just semi-automatic rifles – were 323. That’s 3% of all murders. Hammers and clubs kill half again as many people as rifles. Hands and feet murder twice as many; and knives kill five times more Americans than all rifles combined.

      Preventable medical errors kill about 98,000 people per year: medical malpractice kills more than twelve times as many people as are murdered in the US each year. That’s more than 300 times the number killed by all rifles, not just the so-called “assault rifles.” And yet no one talks about limits on hammers, or knives, or doctors or hospitals. No one does that because the good we perceive from hammers and knives and doctors far outweigh their perceived harm.

      And yet, studies show that firearms prevent anywhere from 800,000 to over two million violent crimes every year. Murders and rapes and assaults are reported, but murders and rapes and assaults prevented by firearms isn’t – in the same way that a jet crash catastrophe makes the evening news while the 30,000 safe landings that occur every single day in this country -- don’t. The lowest estimate means that 100 times more violent crimes were prevented by firearms than the total murders committed by firearms. One hundred times.

      In October of 2007, Amanda Collins was walking to her car after a night class at the University of Nevada at Reno. Amanda had a concealed carry permit for her 9mm Glock that she carried for self-defense. Unfortunately for Amanda, UNR is, like most college campuses, a gun-free zone. So, like the law-abiding citizen that she is, she did not have her gun with her in this gun-free zone when she was attacked by James Biela. Biela raped her on the UNR campus, less than 300 yards from the Campus Police Office. He then walked away, and a few months later, this human predator went on to murder 19-year-old Brianna Dennison. Amanda Collins went on to say, quote, "I know, having been the first victim, that Brianna Dennison would still be alive, had I been able to defend myself that night." Unquote.

      Amanda Collin's right not to be raped and Brianna Dennison's right not to be murdered were taken away by this gun control law.

      When it is all said and done, the Second Amendment to the Constitution is not there to protect us against criminals. And the people calling for gun control know this. That’s why they want gun control, instead of crime control. That’s why they want laws that at the stoke of the pen turn law abiding citizens into criminals.

      The Second Amendment is there to protect the American People from Tyranny.
      The Second Amendment is there to protect the American People from politicians.
      The Second Amendment is there to protect the American People from government.

      Some politicians claim America deserves a vote on this issue. Okay. Let’s have a vote. Those of you advocating infringement on the right of the people to keep and bear arms need to go to the American people with the 28th Amendment – which would simply read “The Second Amendment to the US Constitution is hereby repealed.” That would, for the first time, give you the legal authority to do what you are have been doing, and are trying to do now, in direct violation of your oath of office to defend the entire Constitution of the United States, not just the parts you happen to approve of.

      Go to the American people and tell them that ultimate power is no longer to be vested in the People, who cannot be trusted with that power. Tell them only the Government can have that power now. Go out and try to convince the people of the 38 states you’ll need to get that amendment passed to agree with your opinion of them, versus their opinion of you. I dare you.

      12 million unarmed men, women and children were unable to resist being murdered by their own National Socialist government in Germany. Perhaps fifty million unarmed men, women and children were murdered by their own Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Fifty million Chinese murdered by their own government under Mao, who also disarmed his people. And in Cuba. And Vietnam. And in the killing fields of Cambodia.

      You say that can’t happen here? You say we are protected? By what? By the Constitution you are in the process of destroying? You are in violation of your oaths of office by so much as introducing this legislation, let alone passing it!

      The previous inhabitants of our government watched as 100 million people were murdered after being disarmed by their own governments. Every one of those men, women and children were as real and as precious and irreplaceable as the children at New Town.

      Should we be disarmed? NO!

    • Comment Link Steve Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:05 posted by Steve

      You are 4%... I am 96%...Good luck.

    • Comment Link Robert B. Barth Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:04 posted by Robert B. Barth

      Against The Motion completely, We need the 2nd amendment and it is our right granted to us to protect ourselves and our families. The police can not protect the public or any one. It takes them around 27 minutes to respond to a call ! Our country will not longer be free with out an armed population.. We need to train the youth of today to learn firearm control and be ready to stand up for America !

    • Comment Link Richard Hall Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:02 posted by Richard Hall

      The second amendment should remain as is for ever. Shall not be infringed !

    • Comment Link Richard Hall Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:02 posted by Richard Hall

      The second amendment should remain as is for ever. Shall not be infringed !

    • Comment Link Bill White Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:02 posted by Bill White

      As long as there are governments there should be the right to protect ourselves from them and the power they abuse.

    • Comment Link Fahren magee Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:00 posted by Fahren magee

      Plain and simple, the police show up after the crime. So please tell me what good the police will do if someone was to break into your house rape and kill one of your family members. The second amendment is a god given right. Remember drugs are illegal too and that has stopped all the drug related problems this country has. We don't have a gun problem we have a political problem.

    • Comment Link Brian Hoyt Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:00 posted by Brian Hoyt

      The Constitution never had and never will have an expiration date. That's the beauty of it. It will go on forever, just as long as the politicians don't get their hands on it. We, as a people, have to keep congress in check. And we haven't. Look at what is happening when we let the inmates run the asylum. Total chaos.

    • Comment Link Dennis Mitchell Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:59 posted by Dennis Mitchell

      You can give up your right to be adequately equipped when late night intruders decide to invade your home , steal your hard earned belongings and rape and kill you and your family .if you want to. I will NOT give up my right to protect them. Think it won't happen in your neighborhood ? Pass this ridiculous senseless law and see how fast looters take advantage of the situation. Do you think that if this law was passed ...the looters would automatically turn over their guns ? If so you are very naive and have never been to Watts, Harlem or Buttermilk Bottom . The first thing Hitler did before taking over Germany and enslaving them in tyranny is disarm the country. NO !

    • Comment Link Brian Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:59 posted by Brian

      Not only is the Constitutional Right To Bear Arms necessary. It is necessary now more than ever.

    • Comment Link David Drum Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:58 posted by David Drum

      We need it now more than ever. Out right to keep arms is the only thing keeping US free.

    • Comment Link Stan Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:58 posted by Stan

      When one lives "out in the country", and seconds count, the police are minutes away. The police do a fine job, but they can't be everywhere, all the time. I do not look for trouble, but if it comes to me, I will be prepared to defend my family and myself, with whatever means required.
      If someone forcibly enters my home in the middle of the night, I have no recourse but to assume that they mean harm to me.
      I was taught not to start a fight if it can be avoided, but by God, if someone brings it to me, I will end it.

    • Comment Link Punisher Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:58 posted by Punisher

      Whoever thought of this is an idiot. This will not make America safer. The places with the strictest gun laws have the highest gun violence.

      When seconds count the police are only minutes away.

    • Comment Link Carl Engstrom Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:58 posted by Carl Engstrom

      Against the motion

    • Comment Link John Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:57 posted by John

      Mind your business Brits! Let America deal with its own issues. We created the constitution to protect ourselves from the tyrannical rule of your country. Our second amendment rights sent you guys sailing back to your country with far less soldier then originally sailed over. Mind your business and stop pimping out our constitution so you can make money by selling tickets to your bogus debates!

    • Comment Link Red blooded American Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:54 posted by Red blooded American

      Mind your business Brits! Let America deal with its own issues. We created the constitution to protect ourselves from the tyrannical rule of your country. Our second amendment rights sent you guys sailing back to your country with far less soldier then originally sailed over. Mind your business and stop pimping out our constitution so you can make money by selling tickets to your bogus debates!

    • Comment Link Gilbert Crawford Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:54 posted by Gilbert Crawford

      The national average response time to a 911 call is 10 minutes. Do you know what the " average" person can do in 10 minutes. Let alone a on the job trained thug or killer. And that is if youcan even place the call. That I the normal everyday stuff. Then add in irs targeting. Administration blatant lies and coverups. You shouldnt even be asking this dumb arse question. And judging by your poll even your squared Iinintelligence can figure out it is a dumb arse question. Go fix aids or the obamcare website.

    • Comment Link Jaymike Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:52 posted by Jaymike

      I stand against the motion. any idiot can defy a document that several geniuses came together, wrote, implemented, and successfully founded country with. but let that ship of fools come together and write a new one of there own, if they are so brilliant.... I didn't think so! those rights are there to protect the lawful from those corrupt failures!

    • Comment Link Glenn Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:52 posted by Glenn

      The second amendment is not about hunting, it was put in place so that if tyranny ever reared it's ugly head the people have the power with their arms to take the country back, and keep it as a free republic.

    • Comment Link jim Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:52 posted by jim

      the old saying( when guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns) I guess ill have to become an outlaw because ill never give up my right to [ protect myself and family for anyone. period!!!

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