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

    400|-
    • Comment Link Jon Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:52 posted by Jon

      It's a flawed argument. One cannot expect the police to arrive before a crime occurs. No matter how well trained they are. If I'm at home and an intruder comes in, it is unreasonable for me to wait for a cop to show when I am capable of defending myself. Unfortunately, if the perpetrator is armed, I'm at a complete disadvantage and will likely be killed. (at least, a rational person MUST assume that grave likelihood) If I'm armed, I have a viable chance for survival. If a perpetrator is attacking a family member, I can't simply ask the criminal to wait for a cop. I have to take action or become a statistic. No thank you.

    • Comment Link Tim Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:51 posted by Tim

      You're kidding right? This isn't even a debate. 'For The Motion' equals collectivist welfare state socialism. 'Against The Motion' equals Individual liberty and sovereignty. There is no argument to be had. Only truth to be told which is not happening.

    • Comment Link John Wright Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:51 posted by John Wright

      What a load of crap! The "Right to Bear Arms" is there for a reason. The biggest reason is because of the administration we currently have in the white house! To guard against, and fight, tyranny!

      Our rights are not up for debate! Never have been, never should be !!

      Bleeding heart liberals, communists, socialists, Marxists are the only reason hey they are being debated now!

    • Comment Link John Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:51 posted by John

      Completely against!

    • Comment Link Robert Fallin Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:51 posted by Robert Fallin

      “A free people ought...to be armed”
      ― George Washington

      “The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.”
      ― Thomas Jefferson

      “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
      ― Thomas Jefferson, Complete Jefferson

      “Disarm the people- that is the best and most effective
      way to enslave them.”
      ― James Madison

      “I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters.”
      ― Frank Lloyd Wright

      “Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it's not an individual right or that it's too much of a public safety hazard, don't see the danger in the big picture. They're courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don't like.”
      ― Alan M. Dershowitz

      “The constitution shall never be construed...to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
      ― Alexander Hamilton


      “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.”
      ― Noah Webster

      “[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”
      ― James Madison

      “Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that's good.”
      ― George Washington

      “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves... and include all men capable of bearing arms.”
      ― Richard Henry Lee, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee 1762-1778 V1

      WHY have most people not heard these quotes from the mainstream media? I know. Do you?

    • Comment Link John Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:51 posted by John

      Completely against!

    • Comment Link Robert Fallin Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:51 posted by Robert Fallin

      “A free people ought...to be armed”
      ― George Washington

      “The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.”
      ― Thomas Jefferson

      “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
      ― Thomas Jefferson, Complete Jefferson

      “Disarm the people- that is the best and most effective
      way to enslave them.”
      ― James Madison

      “I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters.”
      ― Frank Lloyd Wright

      “Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it's not an individual right or that it's too much of a public safety hazard, don't see the danger in the big picture. They're courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don't like.”
      ― Alan M. Dershowitz

      “The constitution shall never be construed...to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
      ― Alexander Hamilton


      “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.”
      ― Noah Webster

      “[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”
      ― James Madison

      “Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that's good.”
      ― George Washington

      “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves... and include all men capable of bearing arms.”
      ― Richard Henry Lee, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee 1762-1778 V1

      WHY have most people not heard these quotes from the mainstream media? I know. Do you?

    • Comment Link Steve Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:51 posted by Steve

      "Today, the U.S. has a standing army and a well-trained police force that provide for our security and protection."

      When seconds matter, the police are minutes away (if you're lucky). I will take responsibility for my own defense, thank you very much.

    • Comment Link Emily Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:51 posted by Emily

      Disagree!!!!!!!!

    • Comment Link Brandon Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:50 posted by Brandon

      I'm against the motion as long as tyranny exists people will need firearms to protect themselves

    • Comment Link Jeremy Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:50 posted by Jeremy

      It's your constitutional right to be morons; maybe your right to hold ridiculous polls should also be removed.

      It is YOUR responsibilty and yours alone to defend yourself, whether from grievous bodily harm or from tyrants alike; not the state, federal government, or any other agency. If you so choose to defer that responsibilty to someone else, by all means help yourself.

      It is so easy to sit around floating in your plush little lives thinking that bad men don't intend to harm innocent people by any means; But my hippy happiness is a bit jaded by the scars. Violence was created during the dawn of mankind and has never subsided, regardless of the invention of the firearm. The gun is the force multiplier and equalizer of the Protector and the protected. Police officers carry guns to protect THEMSELVES, and they do so without magazine capacity restrictions. Why then should their self defense be deemed more important than my own??

    • Comment Link Mike Patterson Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:50 posted by Mike Patterson

      Firearms are second only to the constitution in importance, they are the peoples' liberty's teeth. -George Washington
      Evil not only exists in this world, it is everywhere. There is not a corner of this world you can hope to escape it. All you can do is be as prepared as you can be and hope to be better armed.

    • Comment Link Todd Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:49 posted by Todd

      None of these anti gun politicians will give a rip if I'm killed by an intruder, as happens every day in our country. They won't pause for my death nor will they care about my family. The most I will get from them if they even hear about my death is "oh, too bad for that guy and his family". Because I do care and love my family and would grieve horribly for the rest of my life if such would happen, I want the best chance at defending my loved ones and for them to have the same. The fact is, we all are becoming more and more familiar with people we know who have had to face down people who wished them harm. Mental illness is on the rise, so is robbery and violence. I do not want to be at the losing end if I have to defend. Every day we hear about senseless random acts of violence. A gun is our way of raising the odds in our favor. No gun means even fewer odds.

    • Comment Link David Taylor Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:49 posted by David Taylor

      Our Country is nothing without God, our Country was, is, n shall forever be based on the belief that God created us, and this Country! And The Right to Bear Arms against Foreign or Domestic opposition, was, is and shall forever be our God given right to defend what is morally right, to protect our families and this Country!! AMERICA the Beautiful, God shown his Grace on Thee!!!
      The land that I love!!!!

    • Comment Link Robert Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:49 posted by Robert

      This "poll" is simply inflammatory. There is no way to get all firearms off the streets, so taking firearms away from law abiding citizens and passing more restrictive gun laws only lead to an imbalance in power.
      Police are armed for their protection not Our protection.

    • Comment Link Carol Brown Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:49 posted by Carol Brown

      Are you kidding me? It's needed now more than ever!

    • Comment Link Richard Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:48 posted by Richard

      I was raised by a federal agent who carried every where he went, I became a cop and I carried every where I went and I still do and I took the badge off in 1995. The constitution has existed this long for a reason, and remains the law of the land, if you don't like our laws leave, if you feel you will be safer in a gun free area then maybe you should read the statistics on crime in the countries that are now gun free.

    • Comment Link wallace e hart Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:48 posted by wallace e hart

      the constitution must be upheld or the nation will fall god bless this nation under god

    • Comment Link Steve Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:47 posted by Steve

      FACT: Sorted by guns per capita, the USA has the highest ratio of guns per capita and among the lowest murder rates per capita: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Sg0IWeIfhdI/UNd3H2NiPCI/AAAAAAAADHI/U0GhuYM95r0/s1600/Guns_vs_Murders_Per_Capita-02a.jpg

      I personally created this chart. It accurately reflects the following source data:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

    • Comment Link Harry Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:45 posted by Harry

      What part of "shall not be infringed" do they not understand?! The shooters in Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora and practically every mass shooting that has caused this outrage were on prescribed drugs that doctors and big pharma companies have pushed for profit knowing the side affects that are obviously directly related to these heinous acts. Why haven't they been brought to justice?

      You don't try to ban automobiles when someone drives drunk, do you? That wouldn't make sense, right? Neither does punishing law-abiding gun owners for the acts of a few crazy (politically incorrect, I know) people!

      Remember the tv coverage of the LA riots? The AK-47's in the hands of the store owners on the roof of their businesses were enough to make rioters and looters change direction. There CAN be a need for 30-round clips to keep you alive, and NO politician has the right to deny you that protection...PERIOD!!

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