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

Online Voting

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

    540|-
    • Comment Link Aaron Horrocks Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:25 posted by Aaron Horrocks

      History Lesson in Current Events:

      The Mexican government disarms it's citizens to an extremely limited number and type of arms, only for possession in the home.
      The Mexican government, military, and police become extremely corrupted. With a monopoly on power, no one can stop them.
      Mexican drug cartels begin taking over the country, and slaughter unarmed people "in the wrong place at the wrong time". Horrific photos don't make U.S. news, but get posted on facebook, the attacks are as severe as people being cut into pieces with a chainsaw.
      Mexican drug cartels now control more area than the Mexican government does.
      The U.S. Government strong-arms local dealers and smuggles arms to the Mexican drug cartels in 'Operation: Fast and Furious' in an attempt to falsely prove that semi-automatic firearms from the U.S. market are being leaked across the boarder, in an attempt to get the American people to beg for more "gun control."
      The Mexican government still is unable, or unwilling to fight off the drug cartels.
      The Mexican people, now break their countries own laws, and take up arms ("legally" owned, and ones that are "illegal" to own, such as original select-fire weapons), to fight off the drug cartels.

      If the government gets to use the latest weapons, while limiting the technology that the citizens can use, you invite tyranny, or corruption, or an invasion, or even a take over by drug cartels.

      I insist, that yet again, the right of the people to keep and bare arms, YES, even those "machineguns", and select-fire weapons, and "high-capacity magazines", are necessary to the security of a free state. Some very wise men stated this back in 1791, and it was ratified by a majority of states. Any limitation to these basic rights, puts everyone's freedom, security, and life at risk.

    • Comment Link Jan Wilczynski Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:22 posted by Jan Wilczynski

      READ the constitution. the right to bear arms to protect our country from government tyranny .

    • Comment Link Harold Sommers Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:21 posted by Harold Sommers

      I stand for my right to bear arms, retired military

    • Comment Link Rev John J Wilson Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:21 posted by Rev John J Wilson

      The amendment is to protect us from the Army and the police force and anyone else who thinks they can do away with the Constitution and tell us what to do. This is not up for debate it is the law of the land. If anyone tries to nullify the law, armed citizens will rise up throughout the land and remove all those politicians, judges and even presidents who would try to take away the rights of the people. you are forewarned. Case closed.

    • Comment Link Rev John J Wilson Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:21 posted by Rev John J Wilson

      The amendment is to protect us from the Army and the police force and anyone else who thinks they can do away with the Constitution and tell us what to do. This is not up for debate it is the law of the land. If anyone tries to nullify the law, armed citizens will rise up throughout the land and remove all those politicians, judges and even presidents who would try to take away the rights of the people. you are forewarned. Case closed.

    • Comment Link Johnny Vegas Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:21 posted by Johnny Vegas

      I would like to propose we take away the 1st Amendments Rights of anyone proposing dumbass concepts like repealing my 2nd Amendment Rights.

    • Comment Link Tom M. Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:20 posted by Tom M.

      Keep your slimy government hands off of all of my Constitutional Rights. Our Federal Government should look back at history and see what King George III learned from messing with American Colonists.

    • Comment Link Floyd Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:18 posted by Floyd

      The Second Amendment to the Constitution says it best "...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

    • Comment Link Heartland Patriot Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:18 posted by Heartland Patriot

      Firearms aren't our society's main protection? Do you believe that the police will protect you? Just to let you in on a little secret: that isn't their job. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled that police have no duty to protect any particular citizen, period. So, if you want YOU protected, you must do it yourself. Now, if you are some kind of uber-athlete, MMA fighter, or former special forces team member, maybe you can do that with your bare hands. Most of us don't fall into any of those categories, so we need tools to defend ourselves with...and firearms are one of the most useful tools in that respect. Besides, if you do a bit of simple math, you'll find that the percentage of firearms used to commit crimes each year is nigh-on microscopic. There are between 250 and 300 MILLION firearms in the USA; a few thousand of those are used in crimes of any sort. Don't believe the hype, think for yourself.

    • Comment Link Lynda Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:18 posted by Lynda

      There is absolutely nothing to debate..those who entertain any notion of changing the 2nd Amendment had better be well armed themselves.

    • Comment Link Davin Fifield Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:14 posted by Davin Fifield

      Against The Motion

      The individual right to bear arms, like free speech and trial by jury, is fundamental to our American identity. It safeguards This Republic!

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

      Leave my 2nd amendment rights alone! In fact, we should have the right to the same weapons as the military! We know that's been squelched already...

    • Comment Link John Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:12 posted by John

      The US Government should issue one rifle, one handgun and one shotgun to every American citizen in good standing.

    • Comment Link Jeremiah Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:09 posted by Jeremiah

      My rights aren't up for debate. This is a constitutional republic. The Government does not GIVE us rights...we were born with them.

      facebook.com/KeepCalmStayArmed

    • Comment Link Andrew Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:07 posted by Andrew

      In the 1700's individuals also had cannons...just sayin'

    • Comment Link K Wednesday, 13 November 2013 13:01 posted by K

      Why is the only choice to ban guns or provide free reign and unfettered ownership of all types of military style weapons regardless of criminal record or mental health?

      We do not let everyone drive a car. There is a test and if you hurt someone with a car you own you need to be insured. Sale of your car is regulated too and taxes owed and a license plate must be obtained by purchaser.

      No one under 16 gets unrestricted access to a car either. Cars cannot be concealed or carried into a classroom or onto an ice skating rink without calling attention to a serious danger.

      This dystopian view of the anticipated fascist government and ensuing chaos that is coming belongs on NBC's revolution.

      K

    • Comment Link Terry Monday, 11 November 2013 16:15 posted by Terry

      This poll is bogus. Why does it have to be ban guns or free reign? Where is the obvious right choice in the middle ground. I THOUGHT THIS SITE WAS FOR INTELLIGENT DEBATE!!!??? How can it be if these are the choices given to stand behind.

    • Comment Link Carl Wilson Sunday, 10 November 2013 18:44 posted by Carl Wilson

      Keep the right to bare arms intack , DO NOT MESS WITH OUR RIGHTS.

    • Comment Link TomW Sunday, 10 November 2013 17:31 posted by TomW

      The constitution can be an inconvenient document. The second amendment was intended to be an absolute. Time has required laws slowly chipping at that absolute right. As a gun owner, I support most of them. But sometimes, there are unintended consequences. Just as with the first amendment, which is still pretty much an absolute, which allows pornography, the recent Supreme Court Ruling (Citizens United) saying money is free speech, and Westboro Baptist Church hating and protesting everything that does not meet their idea of perfection, we have to tolerate the bad with the good. I haven't seen any movements to repeal the first amendment, despite the abuses. Granted, not many people lose their life over the first amendment. But are we willing to preferentially adhere to one constitutional principle while abandoning others? If that is the case, and a majority supports it, convene a constitutional convention and draft a modern document.

    • Comment Link David Roberts Sunday, 10 November 2013 14:29 posted by David Roberts

      Perhaps one should first consider the fact that each world power persistently trains and arms their citizens to be prepared for war. A principal tool used by governments to train their citizens for war is known as the firearm. Moreover, the U.S. has been involved in perpetual war/conflicts well before and subsequent to its official birth. Interconnect the aforementioned with following historical facts, and the answer should become very obvious:

      1929 - USSR instituted gun control ~ 20 million defenseless dissidents were exterminated from 1929 to 1953.
      1911 - Turkey instituted gun control ~ 1.5 million Armenians were exterminated from 1915 to 1917.
      1938 - Germany instituted gun control ~ 13 million Jews and others were exterminated from 1939 to 1945.
      1935 - China instituted gun control ~ 20 million dissidents were exterminated from 1948 to 1952.
      1964 - Guatemala instituted gun control ~ 100,000 Mayan Indians were exterminated from 1964 to 1981.
      1970 - Uganda instituted gun control ~ 300,000 Christians were exterminated from 1971 to 1979.
      1956 - Cambodia instituted gun control ~ 1,000,000 people were exterminated from 1975 to 1977.

      In total, 56 million defenseless human beings who were rounded up and exterminated - just in the 20th century - but not without first disarming the citizenry.

      262,000,000 million....the estimated number of people murdered at the hands of governments world wide.

      In sum: The # 1 threat to humanity is death caused by governments; better known as "democide".

      “And they are ignorant that the purpose of the sword (today's version is the firearm) is to save every man from slavery.” — Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (A.D. 39-65)

      “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana

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