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

    240|-
    • Comment Link Roy Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:59 posted by Roy

      I don't own a firearm. That said, I have pledged in my time in service to defend and protect the Constitution, and while I am no longer under arms, I will still defend my countrymen's and women's right to bear arms with my life. The sacrifice of those veterans before me and those today trumps any argument that can be made to strip me or any other US citizen of their right, whether or not they choose to exercise that right. I have not in the past nor will I in any future election vote for any politician that intends to remove the right to bear arms.

    • Comment Link Daniel Morrisette Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:54 posted by Daniel Morrisette

      People who have guns now and love their guns will always have guns. Just like when criminals want guns they get them when they need them. Just leave us alone and go back to New York. I bet you all make Obama really happy. Kool-aid drinkers. MO

    • Comment Link Matt Johnson Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:53 posted by Matt Johnson

      Freedom above all. The 2d Amendment protects against government tyranny! Death to tyrants!

    • Comment Link Brian Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:53 posted by Brian

      Doesn't matter if the police have a duty to protect us or not. They can't always be there. And we have a Right to protect ourselves. That's more of a right than than the right to be forced to buy health insurance.

    • Comment Link Aleks Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:53 posted by Aleks

      One of the key rules of debate and discussion is to not have a per-determained conclusion to the discussion but to follow the facts and evidence to a logical conclusion. Your title "The Constitutional Right To Bear Arms Has Outlived Its Usefulness" indicates as it is a statement that it does not matter what is said you have already chosen your side. I thought this was supposed to be about reasoned discussion not bully pulpits.

    • Comment Link J Erickson Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:48 posted by J Erickson

      Four words-SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED!
      Nuff said.

      A Veteran who fought for this country who will be more than happy to send an intruder or any other legally engaged bad guy to the grave.

    • Comment Link Brandon s Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:48 posted by Brandon s

      This website has out lived its usefulness. Us gun owners have up enough of our gun rights already. The firearms act of 1934, gun control act of 1968, the gun control act of 1986, the Brady bill, the pistol free school zones bill, the assault weapon ban under Clinton. We're done with compromise.

    • Comment Link D.B. Jr Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:46 posted by D.B. Jr

      The 2nd amendment is the most important one, placed behind free speech so that the the powers that be both now and back then knew that free speech, the means to call out politions,the ability to protect that and all other. Rights and self preservation from a threat both domestic and abroad,the argument that guns of today weren't envisions by our founding fathers is absurd! They saw advansment in weapons in their time, do you think they thought It would stop? We let them take the 2nd away in we truly become. Sheep

    • Comment Link BangStick Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:45 posted by BangStick

      When are you gun banners just going to drop the issue?

      Your own poll shows only 2% in favor of your BS. It's the same with every other poll done on the internet by major news sites.

      NOBODY wants the BS you are selling!!

    • Comment Link J Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:42 posted by J

      This data is completely wrong. More lives are saved from legal gun owners than are committed in crimes. The FBI has the statistics up on their website. Do a little research before you put out bogus information.

    • Comment Link Nonya Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:42 posted by Nonya

      This data is completely wrong. More lives are saved from legal gun owners than are committed in crimes. The FBI has the statistics up on their website. Do a little research before you put out bogus information.

    • Comment Link Judy Wester Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:35 posted by Judy Wester

      Taking away guns is the first step to enslaving a nation.
      Never give up our right to beer arms. It is our right and we need to learn the importance of it.

    • Comment Link Lee Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:32 posted by Lee

      America is DIFFERENT by design. There are costs associated with ALL of our liberties. If there were not, they would not be worth defending.

      I am tired of hearing "the rest of the world" does this, or "no other civlized nation does this". There is a REASON America is different. If people don't like it, they are FREE to leave and go elsewhere. Do not bring our nation down to the same lowest common denominator.

      Our founding fathers were not idiots (not perfect either), they knew what they were doing.

    • Comment Link Peter Alcantara Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:31 posted by Peter Alcantara

      the mass shootings are tragedies but they are rare...there are more instances of crime and violence being stopped by people with guns. In a recent study mandated by an Obama executive guns are important to the safety and well being of a society. Check it out for yourselves.

      http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=18319&page=R1

    • Comment Link Brian Wilkin Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:30 posted by Brian Wilkin

      Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Houston, St Louis, Cincinnati, etc. The law abiding citizens of the U.S. need the 2nd Amendment now more than ever.

    • Comment Link Jpongetti Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:27 posted by Jpongetti

      Until Everyman is more concerned with my well being vs his own. Then Everyman needs the rite to defend himself .
      If line one was a reality , we would not even be having the debate.

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

      "Shall not be infringed" was included in the wording of the second amendment for a reason. If we allow any Congress, Senate, or presidential administration to infringe on this the entire bill of rights and the constitution as a whole will quickly follow

    • Comment Link Larry Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:12 posted by Larry

      in this day of Homeland Security raising a domestic ARMY, the Second Amendment will be our last line of defense.

    • Comment Link William Jacobson Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:08 posted by William Jacobson

      The reasons for preserving the second amendment are both practical and moral. On the practical level the police in any area from the thickest urban metropolis to the most sparse rural setting are not omnipotent and can't magically teleport to save people from violent attack. Even in the most well patrolled of areas it's not uncommon for a citizen to be completely on their own for 5-10 minutes before the police arrive. On the second practical note it's nearly impossible for a government to enslave and commit atrocities against an armed population without resulting to tactics that destroy all the surrounding wealth, natural resources, and infrastructure of that nation making such attempts essentially suicide for any government. Finally on a moral note denying people their natural right to defend themselves, their families, their communities, and their countries against force and violence either at the hands of private citizens or any government entity is beyond morally reprehensible. Without the right to keep and bear arms we cease to be free men and women with rights and are lowered to being subjects and slaves with privileges. The second amendment is as valid now as it ever was.

    • Comment Link Lagomorph Thursday, 14 November 2013 07:08 posted by Lagomorph

      I think the discussion should include the first amendment. We now have satellites, fiber optics, broadcast networks, data centers, undersea cables and the NSA, most of which seems to be used without restraint to attack the second amendment. Our need for protection against massive infrastructure dedicated to the constant attack on our Rights has never been greater. As a Right it can't be taken away from us because, it's a Right.

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