The Constitutional Right To Bear Arms Has Outlived Its Usefulness

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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


    Alan Dershowitz

    Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

  • levinson sanford  90pix


    Sanford Levinson

    Professor of Law and of Government, University of Texas

  • Kopel official 90


    David Kopel

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

  • volokh eugene90


    Eugene Volokh

    Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

    • Moderator Image


      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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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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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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    • Comment Link USMC77 Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:45 posted by USMC77

      I'm AGAINST the motion. Couldn't seem to find a way to vote...not sure why...but here's my vote. Probably won't get seen.

    • Comment Link Pat Hines Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:45 posted by Pat Hines

      There no no debate to be had, that ended with the passage of the Second Amendment over 200 years ago.

      The Right of Self Defense with any weapon isn't subject to arguments of utility nor to the democratic process.

      No right is so subject.

    • Comment Link MIke Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:41 posted by MIke

      Looks like those who want to take guns are far out numbered in this survey, which I bet reflects the general public view. Now if we could repeal the NY Safe Act we would be moving in the right direction in NY.

    • Comment Link Will Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:39 posted by Will

      To think that even in today's world we should disarm citizens and rely on the government is outrageous. Look at Chicago. The have some of the most strict gun laws in the US, and one of the higher murder rates by firearms. Is the law working there? It does not appear to deter violence. I'm a firm believer that if the we disarm citizens we reduce the balance of power and allow the government free reign to take whatever action they please unchecked. It would be no different than the nazis and we would live in a police state. I for one am not willing to lay down so easy.

      If disarming citizens is such a great idea, then why do we provide weapons to other countries to fight their personal wars? Apparently they can't just "talk it over" because bullets speak louder than words when power is at stake. Out government is supposed to be formed by citizens to govern our citizens. Our politicians have some of the highest net worth in the country, and don't take their position as a service to out country, instead it is taken as a position of power and a way to increase their wealth. Our country has lost touch with our roots and foundations. I worry about our future. When are we going to have some representatives that have a pair and will fight for what is right and what they believe on instead of worrying about donation to their next election so they can stay in their high profile position.

      I think we should wipe the slate clean, take our original laws, and start all over. Figure out how to pay off our debt, be self sufficient, re-elect all positions of government, because what we have now obviously doesn't work, and become the world leader we were meant to be.

    • Comment Link Roger Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:38 posted by Roger

      It is my RIGHT to protect my self. If someone breaks into my home intending to harm myself and my family, they will be greeted with a 12ga. The police cannot be everywhere, and by the time I call them and they arrive I guarantee it will be too late.

      Everyone has a right to protect themselves.

    • Comment Link S. Jones Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:35 posted by S. Jones

      Come and take them.

    • Comment Link Eric M Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:35 posted by Eric M

      I don't trust your claims, since I don't trust those that would disarm the people. History has shown the horrors of those that have been disarmed and the high murder rate is a great example of what happens when the people can't protect themselves.

    • Comment Link Creep Doggie Log Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:34 posted by Creep Doggie Log

      The civilian police are a clean-up squad. They prevent some crimes by capturing violent criminals after they have already caused harm, but the justice system is a catch-and-release game that doesn't do much to protect individuals or families.

      People who are attacked need to be able to defend themselves NOW, and not have to wait for the government to show up.

      The military is prohibited by law from engaging in civilian law enforcement, so it's not even relevant to the discussion at hand. Read up on the Posse Comitatus Act. Invoking the existence of a standing army in the context of a discussion of civilian gun ownership is a Red Herring fallacy.

    • Comment Link Ed Dickersn Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:23 posted by Ed Dickersn

      It is a very empowering experience to come here and read these messages. I sometime feel alone in my concerns and resolutions but, this gives me a feeling of brotherhood to know that I am not alone and we will not surrender to the anarchists government.

    • Comment Link JAMES TAYLOR Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:22 posted by JAMES TAYLOR


    • Comment Link CR Kimey Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:20 posted by CR Kimey

      No the right to bear arms is just as sound as it always has been. As a matter of fact All this rhetoric has justified it's usefulness. I will die first before I turn over all of my arms.

    • Comment Link Julie Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:13 posted by Julie

      And who protects us from our "standing army and well-trained police force" when they are under the command of a tyrant?

    • Comment Link Nelson Feliciano Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:12 posted by Nelson Feliciano

      We have had our rights infringe upon as it is . To loose our rights to bear arms will change the consitution. If you think that we have lost some of our freedom just wait and see or do something about it, speak out and let yourself be heard. Look at history how they gave up their right s to bear arms. Germany, Cuba how the government took over and people have no control. These are only two countrys look at the world do we want to be under their tumbs or to you want to be under control. WE THE PEOPLE Remember that.

    • Comment Link Robert Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:11 posted by Robert

      "Technological advancements have created guns with capabilities far beyond those envisioned in 1789"

      The first recorded use of a firearm was in 1364 and from that time to the time the second amendment was adopted in 1791, firearms (as well as other inventions that were on the rise) had made many "Technological advancements" It would be erroneous to think that the framers of the constitution and bill of rights, would think that advancements would stop there, and that the use of the 2nd was to remain only applicable to the era in which they lived.

      Why would they think that the people should have access to anything less superior than the firearms which their enemies would have access to? Our enemies are always increasing and making advancements, we must stay ahead of them in order to not be over taken of them,, and when you have (Undeniably) Drug lords, thugs, and crooks, and terrorists, having access to fully automatic firearms, ( the legality, of HOW they obtained such a firearm is irrelevant simply because they are already breaking existing law in dealing drugs, or seeking to harm others,,) and the law abiding, not allowed the same access, then our enemies, are legally, outgunning us since it is legality, keeping us from owning the same.,, WHY do I NEED a fully automatic firearm? because there are those who seek to do harm who have these. Else, why would we even be having this discussion?

    • Comment Link Kevin Thursday, 14 November 2013 11:05 posted by Kevin

      Always intelligent? I think that statement has outlived its usefulness based on your "argument" against 2A. What if we were to use the "logic" in the last paragraph and apply it to the First Amendment?

      "In 1789, there were no computers, no radios, no internet or even ball point pens.. Technological advancements have created methods of expression with capabilities far beyond those envisioned in 1789, and the First Amendment is not capable of regulating such methods."

    • Comment Link Dennis Peters Thursday, 14 November 2013 10:57 posted by Dennis Peters

      A Right to bear arms, (last sentence), SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED
      Right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Wyoming used to have a LAW, (retired a few years ago and havent looked at the laws lately), that allows a private citizen to use of force against an unlawful arrest. I think our fore fathers knew what the were doing, Wished they were here to see this mess. If I violated my oath or a law I would be slammed dunked in Jail, The last I looked no one is exempt, but we have a bunch of bootlickers that have no spines. Touch the Constitution and you will have a upset country to deal with. (Not a threat, just a feeling)
      Remember, we will all give an account to GOD at the White Throne of Judgement, For the 2nd Amendment

    • Comment Link Nick Thursday, 14 November 2013 10:53 posted by Nick

      Justice in America has been dead for longer than we can even accept. Real terrorism and tyranny is our own government mixed with the worlds leaders and banks. This whole system of lies and power however feels threatened because of us the American people. We are the last line of defense for freedom whereas we can defend ourselves. For now we have that choice. What happens though when and if they take our guns or what happens when they can't take them.... Will the un invade us because American citizens will NOT disarm. Everyone has their eyes set on right now but what happens when the other side gets even more frustrated when we will NOT disarm. There is already hundreds of thousand un troops here. Russia sent their special forces and this is just what we know. How many other troops are here that we don't know about.

    • Comment Link Jonathan Thursday, 14 November 2013 10:49 posted by Jonathan

      If we look at the threats to society, what is the threat of responsible, law abiding citizens who are in possession of a firearm going into public places. We have them MANY PUBLIC EVENTS and we had VERY FEW INCIDENTS.

      If I took those same public events, and then transpose that to DUI, Drunk Driving Incidents, Reckless Driving and Car Accidents where we LOSE MANY MORE LIVES on the road due to ALCOHOL or RECKLESS DRIVING.

      I am not seeing society's same response that I would expect saying clamp down on the alcohol, cars and reckless driving which is the greater threat to society!

      I think if one looks at the balance of things over the years, the sparse incidents cannot be taken to broad-brush all responsible, law abiding firearm holders who have over thousands of events, thousands of persons attending thousands of events over many years. Sparse incidents cannot be the justification to take away the guns from Americans!

    • Comment Link Tom Skoch Thursday, 14 November 2013 10:39 posted by Tom Skoch

      Anyone who tells you to surrender your ability to defend yourself and your family from evil-doers either has bad things planned for you or is terminally naive, as history has shown time and again.

    • Comment Link Dave V. Thursday, 14 November 2013 10:27 posted by Dave V.

      The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America has not outlived it's usefulness. Nor will it ever outlive it's usefulness.

      The progressive liberal statists have outlived their usefulness..

      Law enforcement has no duty to protect my family or myself at all times. That responsibility is mine and I take it quite seriously. Progressive liberals will never stop trying to hamstring the American citizen and their right to life, liberty, and happiness..


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