Gun violence has become a serious and widespread problem in the U.S. While many people are calling for stricter gun control laws, one retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice has a more drastic solution: repeal the Second Amendment. Justice John Paul Stevens called for repealing the Second Amendment in an op-ed piece he wrote in the New York Times. Justice Stevens also encouraged demonstrators demanding more gun control to also call for repeal.
Justice Stevens’ Issue With the Second Amendment
Justice Stevens wrote that the Second Amendment was “uniformly understood as not placing any limit on either federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation” until the decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. In that decision, the Supreme Court ruled that there is an individual right to bear arms. Justice Stevens was one of four justices who dissented, and he says it’s that decision that “has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power.”
In Justice Stevens’ opinion, overturning that decision through a constitutional amendment to do away with the Second Amendment “would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.”
Repealing a Constitutional Amendment
The U.S. Constitution was created to do a variety of things, which includes outlining the powers of the federal and state government and protecting individuals’ rights. Considering the importance of this document, it’s no surprise that changing the Constitution isn’t very easy. In fact, the 18th Amendment — which prohibited the making, transportation, and sale of alcohol – is the only amendment that has ever been repealed with the adoption of the 21st Amendment.
There are two ways to repeal an amendment. One way is for the proposed amendment to be passed by the House and the Senate with two-thirds majority votes. Then, the proposed amendment would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. The second way to repeal an amendment is to have a Constitutional Convention. It would take two-thirds of state legislatures to call for this convention and the states would draft amendments, which would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.
Considering the high threshold for making such a change to the Constitution, it’s unlikely that the Second Amendment will be repealed. After all, as Kevin McMahon, a political science professor and constitutional law expert, pointed out to CBS News: “It’s hard enough for gun control legislation to be passed now in Congress which requires simply a simple majority.”