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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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 Mark Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:30 posted by Mark

      Considering the current administration, and the way it seems to be leaning toward a dictatorship government, our 2nd amendment right is needed now, more that it ever has been needed in the past.
      Our second amendment was created to protect us from the exact type of government that Obama is pushing for.

    • Comment Link bobby burnett Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:26 posted by bobby burnett

      Is this a real question ? Even without the 2nd. As a human being dont i have the right to defend myself?

    • Comment Link Gorges Smythe Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:24 posted by Gorges Smythe

      There can BE no middle ground because every time the pro-gun side compromises, the anti's want MORE!

    • Comment Link Arik Samson Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:22 posted by Arik Samson

      Today, more than ever before, the right to bear arms is essential, a must. Above all, it is a constitutional right, and to undo that, a constitutional convention needs to be convened. Neither kangaroo courts nor phoney international treaties, have the authority to override our Constitution.

    • Comment Link Tae Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:19 posted by Tae

      When you give up the right to defend YOURSELF you are giving up your freedom, on a national, state, local and personal level! Only the criminals and government will have means to protect. Individuals will be utterly vulnerable to attack by anyone desiring to harm them. Our forefathers experienced this firsthand, must we repeat history?

    • Comment Link Nedra Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:19 posted by Nedra

      I vote AGAINST

    • Comment Link Joseph Clark Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:17 posted by Joseph Clark

      As long as crimes or violent crimes, home invasions, B&E, stalking,anger,hate, racism, and or signs of socialism or tyrrany exists then the right to bear arms as not outlived its usefulless.

    • Comment Link Handgun Safety Course Maine Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:15 posted by Handgun Safety Course Maine

      good luck with removing the 2nd amendment......just saying.

    • Comment Link carl Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:13 posted by carl

      The 2nd amendment was also intendedfor us to have arms to keep the government in check. If the government gets small arms treaty and it takes 95 percent of our guns. What will stop them?
      Everything are fore father's did to create a free country, to keep the government form ruling over the pepole. Government is should be working for us not against the law abiding citizens. AND even if you lived next to a police station and your home gets broken into and you get raped and robbed the police still are minutes away after they get the call. So its our right to use a wepon to defend our self.
      Think of this gun haters IF all the law abiding people in amarica had NO GUNS AT ALL NOT EVEN A RIFLE how safe do you think you'd be knowing that all the criminals new that nobody had a gun in there home. What kind of crime rate increase would we see?

    • Comment Link Zbigniew Sekula Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:09 posted by Zbigniew Sekula

      If guns kill people they should be outlawed. Correct? If so we should outlaw spoons and forks because the make people fat!!

    • Comment Link Jane Beman Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:05 posted by Jane Beman

      It seems that the folks who consider the Second Amendment outdated are the ones who want to do things that are not in *our* best interest. This present president is the most tyrannical in memory.

      At least King George III was already king. The assumption then was that the king or queen was born to it.

    • Comment Link Tenche Coxe Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:58 posted by Tenche Coxe

      Seriously? Repeal the Second Amendment or rewrite the Constitution? The mindless dregs in government can't write a law that even they can understand and you want to trust them with our founding document? Pull your cranium out of your pocket.

    • Comment Link Wayne Atchley Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:50 posted by Wayne Atchley

      The 2nd Amendment is as important today as it was in the 18th century. I support it.

    • Comment Link Scott Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:49 posted by Scott

      Debating whether a right should continue is pointless. Our individual right to self defense, and hence to bear arms, is fundamental and granted by our Creator, not govt.

      No one can rightly take it away.

      The government's only just role with the 2nd amendment is to SECURE that right. It does NOT grant it, and has no authority to take it away or infringe it.

    • Comment Link Doc Holliday Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:48 posted by Doc Holliday

      How about.starting with Eric Holder and lobbying for a full investigation of Fast and Furious? What about the illegal gun trafficking coming in via our southern border? We need Crime Control not Gun Control!

    • Comment Link John Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:44 posted by John

      A standing army within the U.S. is meant to protect our borders, not be the enforcers of martial law. The police force in this country is, more or less, a reactionary force, only responding AFTER something happens.

    • Comment Link Daev Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:42 posted by Daev

      You folks do realize that internet polls are useless against a well-regulated militia of firearms advocates, don't you?

      I'm not even going to vote in this... just came here to look at how horribly the gun control side got trounced after the NRA posted a link to this on their Facebook feed.

      See... the problem with internet polls is selection bias. The problem with internet polls about guns is that those of us whose lives gun legislation effects most directly (gun owners) tend to keep abrest of information networks which keep us tuned into things like internet polls about gun control. Thus, it's really impossible to get anything like a random sample in an internet poll about gun control. Hell, it's pretty impossible to get an relevant random sample on most political issues that cut across American society so broadly. Something that polls at 90% in one direction in one month may poll at only 47% in the same direction a few months later.

      Moreover, as a firearms owner, I can say this. Gun control advocates are reaching too far. The Manchin-Toomey bill a few months back was pretty decent in some respects (for licensed concealed carriers like myself, it meant a $10 discount off of all firearms purchases in my state, for instance). However, the crux of the issue is that nobody wants to be criminalized for not being engaged in criminal or particularly socially dangerous behavior. You can say what you want about firearms thefts and illegal sales leading to gun crime. you can even get into the instances when perfectly legal firearms purchasers went off the rails and started killing people en masse. What you can't tell me, however, is that 99+% of the firearms owners out there are responsible for the majority of gun crime or mass violence in this country. In fact, aside from the direct perpetrators, you can't honestly say that anyone is responsible. The issue here is one of markets (black, grey and on the up and up) and a disjointed society that doesn't have its priorities straight.

      You can't fix a population in which thousands of individuals are willing to murder their neighbors by simply restricting how they get the implements whereby they do so. Moreover, you can't remove guns from the world's chief manufacturer of them by passing legislation prohibiting civilians from legally acquiring them any more than you can restrict the Chinese from owning cell phones or Computers. If this country wanted to stop the small arms market domestically, it would do so the only way that works. It would stop buying more than a third of all of the guns for the police and military (and ban sale to foreign police and militaries). I sincerely doubt most Liberals would go that far. Subsequently, guns are simply a reality you will have to learn to deal with.

    • Comment Link Kody Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:41 posted by Kody

      Gun control is usually fought over so fiercely because of the amount of deaths guns obviously cause right? Well statistically your more likely to die from accidental food poisoning or driving your car. Yet I see no one calling for a fix in these topics. I believe this should be left up to the states instead of the federal government. There are 50 states and each have a different style of living, there's no way a one size gun law will fit all 50 states. Some people directly depend on guns to make a living, while others live in Washington D.C. and have probably never even held a gun. Also I want to point out that hammers had a higher murder rate than rifles. You people should consider all aspects and what consequences will follow, good or bad. Were not the first Nation to have this debate after all.

    • Comment Link Terence J. OBrien Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:38 posted by Terence J. OBrien

      Prays the lord and pass the ammunition.

    • Comment Link Shawn Alexandre Grammont Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:36 posted by Shawn Alexandre Grammont

      The US CONSTITUTION is current and the Bill of Rights is useful now and through out the future.

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