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

    420|-
    • Comment Link Michael Wallace Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:42 posted by Michael Wallace

      If the second amendment does not guarantee individuals the right to keep and bear weapons, then the other nine amendments in the bill of rights are meaning less.

    • Comment Link SAM Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:41 posted by SAM

      I don't believe the second amendment has been more relevant since the revolutionary war than now.
      Recall that President Barrack Obama once stood at a podium during a college commencement ceremony and told the departing class to... "be weary of the voices that warn of tyranny"... yet we have discovered in the days since that we live under constant surveillance, our local law enforcement divisions are more like military units than peace officers and the U.N. is constantly beating at our door trying to ever diminish our national sovereignty.

    • Comment Link Chris brown Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:40 posted by Chris brown

      All I can say is.... Come and take it!!... You better pack a lunch if you are coming for mine!

    • Comment Link Don Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:39 posted by Don

      NO! The right to self protection is never outdated.

    • Comment Link Willie Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:39 posted by Willie

      Terry...there is no middle ground on the 2nd amendment.

    • Comment Link I WANT MY CAKE BACK Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:39 posted by I WANT MY CAKE BACK

      I hear a lot about "compromise" from your camp ... except, it's not compromise.
      Let's say I have this cake. It is a very nice cake, with "GUN RIGHTS" written across the top in lovely floral icing. Along you come and say, "Give me that cake."

      I say, "No, it's my cake."

      You say, "Let's compromise. Give me half." I respond by asking what I get out of this compromise, and you reply that I get to keep half of my cake.

      Okay, we compromise. Let us call this compromise The National Firearms Act of 1934.

      There I am with my half of the cake, and you walk back up and say, "Give me that cake."

      I say, "No, it's my cake."

      You say, "Let's compromise." What do I get out of this compromise? Why, I get to keep half of what's left of the cake I already own.

      So, we have your compromise -- let us call this one the Gun Control Act of 1968 -- and I'm left holding what is now just a quarter of my cake.

      And I'm sitting in the corner with my quarter piece of cake, and here you come again. You want my cake. Again.

      This time you take several bites -- we'll call this compromise the Clinton Executive Orders -- and I'm left with about a tenth of what has always been MY DAMN CAKE and you've got nine-tenths of it.

      Then we compromised with the Lautenberg Act (nibble, nibble), the HUD/Smith and Wesson agreement (nibble, nibble), the Brady Law (NOM NOM NOM), the School Safety and Law Enforcement Improvement Act (sweet tap-dancing Freyja, my finger!)

      I'm left holding crumbs of what was once a large and satisfying cake, and you're standing there with most of MY CAKE, making anime eyes and whining about being "reasonable", and wondering "why we won't compromise".

      I'm done with being reasonable, and I'm done with compromise. Nothing about gun control in this country has ever been "reasonable" nor a genuine "compromise".

      I WANT MY CAKE BACK.

    • Comment Link Scott Bartlett Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:38 posted by Scott Bartlett

      I can't believe this. When will people understand that violence has nothing to do with guns?

    • Comment Link Jim Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:37 posted by Jim

      When we lose the 2nd Amendment, then the others will surely follow. Having been a trained Police Officer for 19 years, I can assure you that the right to protect ones self, family and property is paramount! Police cannot protect every one person 24/7

    • Comment Link Jim Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:37 posted by Jim

      When we lose the 2nd Amendment, then the others will surely follow. Having been a trained Police Officer for 19 years, I can assure you that the right to protect ones self, family and property is paramount! Police cannot protect every one person 24/7

    • Comment Link Craig Ovadia Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:37 posted by Craig Ovadia

      The 2nd Amendment is more precious today than in the last 50 years. Seems to me that all big Government wants to do is keep taking our rights away.

    • Comment Link Bill Roderick Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:36 posted by Bill Roderick

      The Constitution neither gaurantee's nor gives rights to individuals only enumerate them therein. All rights of individuals are God given and not subject to revision or destruction by govenors, presidents, princes , kings, judges or potentates

    • Comment Link Deryl Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:35 posted by Deryl

      The second amendment was put into place to prevent the government from ever becoming tyrannical and to insure the right to protect oneself, ones family, ones neighbors, ones state and ones country. The argument for removing the second amendment or severely limiting it is based in half-truths, lies and fouled thinking. the majority of gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens, it is only the minority who already obtain guns through illegal means, and will continue to do so, that infringe upon society. It takes law enforcement on average of 5 minutes after dispatch to arrive on scene, in that time a shooter can kill many people. My question for the anti-gun movement is this, Are you willing to sacrifice your families life while you wait for law enforcement? As for me, I will defend my family and after that I will defend your family as well. No thanks are needed, I believe in protecting and defending human life against those who would without a second thought randomly and recklessly take it. Should you disagree with my viewpoint, I invite you to stand up in front that active shooter and at least exchange your life for the innocent, rather than cowering, at least then you will stand up for what you choose to believe in.

    • Comment Link Howard Cook Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:35 posted by Howard Cook

      As a veteran and 42 year member of local, state, and federal law enforcement, I am against the motion. Enough said!

    • Comment Link troy noble Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:35 posted by troy noble

      It's my rite as an American citizen.

    • Comment Link BossRotton Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:35 posted by BossRotton

      Whenever you figure out how to take firearms from the criminals, then get back with me on this...otherwise you're wasting time, as i am trying to type sense into you.

    • Comment Link Jamey Fracz Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:35 posted by Jamey Fracz

      I am against any and all infringements on my right to bear arms!

    • Comment Link Rene Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:35 posted by Rene

      We are American and have the right to bear arms. PROTECT my right to keep and bear arms, No matter what happens. The government need to stay out of this, and live with the Constitution. Need a smaller government, and states need smaller government too.

    • Comment Link Rene Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:33 posted by Rene

      We are American and have the right to bear arms. PROTECT my right to keep and bear arms, No matter what happens. The government need to stay out of this, and live with the Constitution. Need a smaller government, and states need smaller government too.

    • Comment Link Nancy Steele Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:32 posted by Nancy Steele

      Leave our guns and our. Second Amendment rights alone!

    • Comment Link Samantha Vogel Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:32 posted by Samantha Vogel

      More then ever we need to keep our second ammendment

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