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 Mark Thursday, 14 November 2013 09:07 posted by Mark

      Nothing in the constitution will outlive its usefulness. It was written over 200 hundred yrs. ago and is the best reference for anything that is questionable today.

    • Comment Link Bud Thursday, 14 November 2013 09:07 posted by Bud

      This RIGHT is not even up for debate. The police are not at my house to protect my family and can't get here fast enough to save my family if someone breaks in and wants to harm my family. How many people are found dead in their homes due to stabbings, beatings, etc.? Should all knives be outlawed also? Laws don't mean anything to the lawless. I have never harmed anyone with my guns and as far as I know they have never left on their own to go after others? So what you say that we move on to something else like the mentally ill owning a weapon?

    • Comment Link Rob Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:55 posted by Rob

      My brother and uncle are gay, socially liberal, and gun owners. For whoever thinks you can't be open minded and appreciate the right to bear arms, you are nuts. In order to be truly open minded and protect your right to be who you are, guns are a very necessary part of that. In this crazy world, people will attack you for who you are or for no reason at all. Hate crimes happen because folks can't protect themselves. Genocide happens because citizens can't protect themselves from the government. You can't pick and chose the amendments to the Constitution you wish to support. The 2nd amendment is the amendment that gives us the power to protect the Bill of Rights and rest of rights given by our Constitution.

    • Comment Link Rob Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:55 posted by Rob

      My brother and uncle are gay, socially liberal, and gun owners. For whoever thinks you can't be open minded and appreciate the right to bear arms, you are nuts. In order to be truly open minded and protect your right to be who you are, guns are a very necessary part of that. In this crazy world, people will attack you for who you are or for no reason at all. Hate crimes happen because folks can't protect themselves. Genocide happens because citizens can't protect themselves from the government. You can't pick and chose the amendments to the Constitution you wish to support. The 2nd amendment is the amendment that gives us the power to protect the Bill of Rights and rest of rights given by our Constitution.

    • Comment Link ProgressivesDREWfirstBLOOD Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:53 posted by ProgressivesDREWfirstBLOOD

      Our government is wildly evil and out of control. Truth is, citizens now need much more powerful weapons. I hope there are people working in secret basements developing technology to foil the tyrants who will eventually use our own military against us. Obama is already purging the military and since 9/11, it is obvious our government sees us a subjects instead of what we were meant to be - sovereign citizens who control government. CW2 cannpt be far away, a thought that is frightening. The progressives can't wait to slaughter millions who won't bow down... this administration has made its hatred of liberty apparent, the line is being drawn. People are buying guns and ammo in a frenzied record pace. Guess why...

    • Comment Link Ke Skolnik Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:52 posted by Ke Skolnik

      We're almost in a state of anarcht, if they take our guns we will totally be fucked

    • Comment Link Jason Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:52 posted by Jason

      This is absurd even for extremist progressives the Second Amendment is there to protect us why would any body want to disarm its citizens DEF about control and nothing to do with safety. As an independent voter that has voted for Clinton and against Bush there is no way in hell you will ever take my guns my right to defend myself far surpasses your desire to control me.

    • Comment Link Patrick Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:50 posted by Patrick

      Actually the Second Amendmant has always been the most important amendment, even more so today.

    • Comment Link Gary Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:47 posted by Gary

      Why is it that we are perfectly OK with laws that require that we wear seat belts, drive at the speed limit, wear helmets, have a drivers licence (test required), etc. But when it comes to restricting who gets to own a gun (or what type), the nut-bar rednecks get to set the agenda. Folks, a gun has 1 purpose.... kill. That is what it is designed to do, and when used as directed, it certainly does kill. No other product does that, and many of those do have plenty of restrictions. As for the crazies that worry about an evil dictator murdering its citizens, take your gun and go live there! In fact, take all the guns with you. Don't worry about us, we'll be fine.

    • Comment Link Jo Moore Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:45 posted by Jo Moore

      Since criminals do no respect our right to life, or to keep what we have earned or been given, then we must be able to defend ourselves. The courts say police have no duty to protect, and even if they did cannot arrive at the right location / right time (logistically impossible) in every case -- therefore we must be able to defend ourselves. It may be sad that "we have not evolved" further; however, until the whole world comes to respect others rights, you only have what you can defend. The Second Amendment must be protected - without it the rest don't matter. The Founding Fathers also had cannons and pistols and swords.

    • Comment Link Robert Yetman Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:44 posted by Robert Yetman

      Without the 2nd none of the others would still exist at all so grow up and realize the truth ! It is a safeguard to our liberties and freedoms period !

    • Comment Link Adam Verret Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:43 posted by Adam Verret

      Are you against the rights of women and the elderly to be able to protect themselves?

    • Comment Link John Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:42 posted by John

      If you think that there's no longer any danger of tyranny from our government against the people, you don't pay attention. Currently, the US government is listening to our phone conversations, keeping track of our call histories, tracking our internet use, recording us on film across the entire country, using drones to track our movements, and the DHS has purchased enough ammunition within the last two years to shoot every US man, woman, and child 5 times - 1.6 billion rounds. That's twice as much ammunition as required by the total US military at a time when we're at war. There's no such thing as an end to the danger of tyranny and we must retain all of our rights under the Constitution to remain free.

    • Comment Link Gary Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:37 posted by Gary

      It is not more Gun Control that we need. Its More Gonernment Control that we need. Since 2008, our President has done more harm trying to Devide the People of America with Health care Reform, Gun Bans, and it goes on. Dont do this,Dont say that,but yet annything that the President wants seems to become a NEW LAW. Our Problem is that Congress Gives Him What He Wants. No regard to the People of America. Will Congress stand behind him when EGYPT comes for Him for Crimes aginst Them?

    • Comment Link Jeff Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:31 posted by Jeff

      If this right is taken away. Then what other rights are going to be taken away? The people in this country need to wake up and notice what is happening in this country. This country was founded by rights of the people in this country to protect the people rights. Taking our rights away to bare arms is not going to stop crime but increase crime. Then what other rights going to be taken away from the people in this country. We need to wake up in this country and see what is happening with this Government. It is being run by the rich
      not the people. The people need to reunite and take this country back.

    • Comment Link Micheal H. Standart Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:30 posted by Micheal H. Standart

      There is NO SUCH THING as a right which has outlived it's usefulness.

      Rights don't exist because they are useful to the government and rights are not cute little perquisites or gifts bestowed on us by the good grace and benevolence of the government.

      A right is what somebody is due as a matter of common decency and respect for the person. Governments do NOT "grant" rights. Government's only valid reason for existence is to PROTECT those rights from the predations of transient majorities and power elites who would attempt to strip them away. Codifying rights into law is a check against government excesses by placing a line in the sand which is may NOT cross...EVER.

    • Comment Link RGCheek Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:19 posted by RGCheek

      Reasonable gun control is left out of this discussion and it consists of three elements:
      1. Reasonable gun control laws do not punish the law abiding citizen. It must distinguish between criminal use and legal responsible use of guns.
      2. Responsible gun use requires securing them, knowing how to use them and taking responsibility for what happens with owns guns.
      3. There is nothing reasonable about creating gun free zones or artificially restricting guns by law. these things only reduce the right of self defense. Contrast the number of mass shootings at gun ranges as opposed to public schools for some illuminating contrast.

      As an aside, Rifles are among the safest and least criminally used weapons in our nation. Knives are used far more often to kill people than AR-15s are. Handguns are used in a high rate of homicides, but not all homicides are unjustified.

    • Comment Link FRANK Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:19 posted by FRANK

      Our Rights are guaranteed. Beware of those wanting to change anyone of them. They have a agenda to bring USA down to its knees. First they took the ability of teachers to discipline children in school. Now those children not fearing authority pick up weapons from a house hold and not having a God fearing respect kill innocent people. Do not blame the gun, it has been around since 1776. Blame the liberal society, Hollywood and mind altering drugs.

    • Comment Link robert parker Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:18 posted by robert parker

      Go to hell.

    • Comment Link robert parker Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:17 posted by robert parker

      Go to hell.

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