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 R. Young Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:35 posted by R. Young

      It is the LAW of the LAND, a good and just Law one of the founding principles our nation was founded upon, all citizens have the Right to protect themselves and their families, from whomever and whatever!

    • Comment Link Jesse Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:32 posted by Jesse

      "homicide rates are higher in the U.S. than in any other developed nation" This is a fallacy. Perhaps you shouldnt try and skew results before the debate has even happened.

    • Comment Link Michael Headlee Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:32 posted by Michael Headlee

      What is going to stop the government from taking away ALL of our rights, if we can't defend them. Take away the 2nd Amendment and we will lose the rest very shortly after that.

    • Comment Link T.G. Foley Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:28 posted by T.G. Foley

      The point of the second Amendment, is protection of not only the individual, but their rights promised by the Constitution, which includes the right of the people to stand up against that police force, and the military, when it becomes clear that those in charge of the military and the police, no longer represent the people, but seek to control the people...

    • Comment Link Mo Doc Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:27 posted by Mo Doc

      Our Constitution and The Bill of Rights will never outlive it's usefulness except in the eyes of those who are truly the enemies of the USA and our way of life !

    • Comment Link Chris Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:25 posted by Chris

      Today, the U.S. has a standing army of obedient slaves and a well-trained police force that will shoot you or your dog to provide for our security and protection.

    • Comment Link Michael M Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:24 posted by Michael M

      As a few have pointed out, the arguments listed at the base are essentialy meaningless drivel, outright untruths, or completely subjective.

    • Comment Link Elia Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:24 posted by Elia

      I am bone tired of men like Dershowitz and Levinson who think a 118 lb. woman should have to face her 250 lb. would-be rapist unarmed. Force is an unavoidable part of life. It is beyond ignorant to pretend that people misuse force to get what they want from those who are weaker or more vulnerable. Fortunately, we have force equalizers called firearms, which enable people like me to avoid almost certain bodily injury or death in a confrontation.

      Besides, deep in their hearts these wealthy, privileged "progressives" know force must be met with force. That's why they hide behind their armed guards in their rich, white enclaves. How dare they lecture us?

    • Comment Link Sally Vancil Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:18 posted by Sally Vancil

      The constitution protects a free society. Nullification of the right to bear arms leaves society at the mercy of those who wish to dominate us. If you don't like our constitution then get the hell out of this country. This is not even up for discussion.

    • Comment Link tom Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:18 posted by tom

      there isnt a choice for middle ground because the second amendment as written doesnt allow for middle ground. the words "shall not be infringed" do not allow for middle ground. The gun rights are already being "infringed" if you ask me with these waste of time regulations and laws. No criminal is out there going "Gee...i should really follow this regulation cause if i dont, i could go to jail." you know why they arent thinking that? Ahhh it's because they are criminals! And thats right...criminals have always followed every rule and regulation that your gracious progressive liberals have put into place isnt that right?

      Personally if it were up too me, we would remove both(democrats and republicans) political parties, as they are both corrupt and not following the voice of the people set up term limits for EVERY office and permanent term limits for politicians.

    • Comment Link sandra spinniken Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:16 posted by sandra spinniken

      Do not mess with our constitution. Leave our right to bear arms alone.

    • Comment Link Dredd Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:14 posted by Dredd

      Peter Sky said; "There is no way that 300 million guns could be confiscated, but also no rational basis for avoiding a national gun registry."

      You do realize that your statement contradicts itself, don't you? The ONLY way to confiscate ANY amount of guns is to REGISTER them!

      Of course, that's the plan, isn't it?

    • Comment Link JC Hall Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:12 posted by JC Hall

      Mao said, "All power comes from the barrel of a gun." When the only guns are held by the government, you are a subject and a slave to that government. When you carry arms, you are a citizen.

    • Comment Link Eric T Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:11 posted by Eric T

      The Second Amendment defines a civil right. If my fellow citizens amend the Constitution to repeal the second amendment then so be it. Until then any attempt to threaten my person or violate my civil right may be resisted with appropriate force. God bless the wisdom of our founding fathers.

    • Comment Link Jerry Barbour Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:09 posted by Jerry Barbour

      Before we outlaw guns, there are many other things that kill many more people. (Actually, guns don't kill anyone, people do). Let's start by outlawing automobiles and trucks. Check out how many people are killed by them. Let's outlaw sports, like football, soccer, golf. People die playing these games. For Gods sake, outlaw them. As for the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution, it was written by some very smart men. They knew that the amendment would only be needed, when the government tried to take it away from us. Like the Obama administration is trying to do today. What we need to do away with is, the morons in Washington, DC that are trying to turn our government into a socialist government. Socialism does not work. Never has. Never will. Just ask any Russian. So, leave my Constitution alone, or leave my country.

    • Comment Link Tank Charmcity Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:09 posted by Tank Charmcity

      I'm so sick of Democrats trying to say they are protecting our democracy. We are not a Democracy we are a Constitutional Republic. The only part of our system that is a Democracy is voting, nothing else. The Constitution Guarantees my right to say what I want to say, Vote how I want to vote, Pray to whom ever I wish and it also gives me the right to Bear Arms to defend myself and family from those who wish to take them away. LMAO who do these Clown Democrats think are gonna come take my guns? HaHaHa going by what they say, they don't even have Arms, so how you gonna take mine? I can promise they won't go willingly and who ever come to clean up the mess better have some gloves cause they're gonna be HOT!!!

    • Comment Link Dredd Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:09 posted by Dredd

      Barkley is not aware of what the word "civilized" means. He doesn't even know the difference between a "citizen" and a "subject", so the fact that the Bill of rights cannot be repealed must be a complete mystery to him as well. If he thinks that it can, he should go ahead and try it instead of whining about it online.

      If Barkley's ignorance of Constitutional Law is as bad as his ignorance of the 2nd Amendment, he has destroyed his own argument before he has even presented it. Typical for the defenders of socialism these days...

    • Comment Link Tony G Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:08 posted by Tony G

      We need to defend ourselves from idiots in office.

    • Comment Link gary Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:04 posted by gary

      The Constitution is not a plaything for revisionist socialists. It is set in concrete. Inviolate, unmovable and the foundation of our freedoms. Let these idiots mess with it and we'll soon be no better than Russia or China.

    • Comment Link Charles Wednesday, 13 November 2013 23:00 posted by Charles

      The 2nd Amendment isn't about nor should it be effected by gun violence, that is a law enforcement issue. The 2nd Amendment is about being the check for a tyrannical government and making sure that there are abled bodied persons to defend the country.

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