In book out today, retired justice outlines amendment ideas
WASHINGTON — In the aftermath of the Connecticut school shootings that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens began thinking about ways to prevent a repeat.
The result is Stevens' new book — his second since retiring from the court at age 90 — in which he calls for no fewer than six changes to the Constitution, of which two are directly related to guns. Others would abolish the death penalty, make it easier to limit spending on elections and rein in partisan drawing of electoral districts.
Stevens argues for a 5-word change to the Second Amendment: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms — when serving in the Militia —shall not be infringed,” adding the middle section.
His proposed amendments generally would overrule major Supreme Court decisions with which he disagrees, including ones on guns and campaign finance in which he dissented.
The book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” is being published on Tuesday, two days after Stevens' 94th birthday.
Stevens said that the Newtown, Conn., shootings in 2012 made him think about doing “whatever we could to prevent such a thing from happening again.”
One amendment would allow Congress to force state participation in gun checks, while a second would change the Second Amendment to permit gun control. Stevens was on the losing end of a 5-4 decision in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the court declared for the first time that Americans have a right to own a gun for self-defense.
He acknowledged that his proposed change would allow Congress to do something unthinkable in today's environment: ban gun ownership altogether.