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

    • Comment Link Eric Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:52 posted by Eric

      If a significant number of people living in this country no longer embrace the Constitution, the very definition of "America", it isn't a matter of whether or not the Bill Of Rights is outdated, its a matter of whether the Union is outdated. Read the Declaration of Independence.

    • Comment Link Jay Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:51 posted by Jay

      Taking firearms is the worst idea the police don't have an obligation to protect you AND CAN NOT PROTECT YOU

    • Comment Link Terrence Lamb Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:50 posted by Terrence Lamb

      The Government is crazy if they think I count on police officers to protect me and mine at home, or D.H.S. to protect me and mine at home, or the military to be near enough to defend me and mine at home if the need arises. I disagree whole-heartedly with anyone who trusts those in government who seek to disarm the public, thereby leaving them defenseless against the evils of the modern world.

    • Comment Link Brian Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:50 posted by Brian

      intelligence squared? Hardly. Try this.. Remove the cities from the US with the highest murder rate. Why? because these cities just so happen to have the toughest gun laws. Now where does the US stand in the world for gun related murders? You do the math. You tell me.

    • Comment Link YankeeFan Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:44 posted by YankeeFan

      The right to keep and bear arms is not a Constitutional right.... it is a NATURAL right. The only thing the constitution does is recognize it and prohibits the infringement of it.

    • Comment Link Zach J. Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:44 posted by Zach J.

      The removal of the right for citizens to protect themselves, not just from other citizens but also from their government, has been a precursor of every major dictatorship overthrow and governmental genocide of a people in the last 110 years.

      I am AGAINST any notion that the protection and rights of good people be infringed upon because of the actions of evil people. Gun control law advocates argue that the best cause for these laws is the prevention of murder. The creation of new laws with the attempt to accessorize preexisting laws is merely used to cover up the real purpose behind that new law: control of the masses. That notion in itself should frighten any and every free person.

      There is much ignorance in the creation of new laws that aim to restrict a particularly evil behavior, like gun laws. That ignorance is that the abstract concept of a law, like a stern "no" from a parent to a child, will deter any and all attempts to break the law. Any individual that wishes to break the law by committing murder will not be hindered by a law preventing them from obtaining a weapon. They will always find a way to operate outside of the law and have always done so. There are many strict laws against drug use and dozens of enforcement agencies that attempt to prevent drug use but that has not stopped the general will of those who would easily break the law for what they want.

    • Comment Link George Grubb Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:42 posted by George Grubb

      Real simple. Stay away from my constitutional rights!

    • Comment Link Pat Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:41 posted by Pat

      Well I would like to point out those of us who chose to practice our right to bear arms have that right in the past compromise from our side has been allowed. These OPPRESSIONEISTS do not comprehend this though. They ignore facets, and mouth off, and most of them do not know the facts or understand the truth. Your right to mouth off, and sound like a child who did not get your way is protested by all the other amendments including the second. Let us call you for what you are from this day forward you are all OPPRESSIONEIST, and you want nothing more than to strip the fundamental right of self defense from tyranny. Do you not understand how to rationally solve problems. You do not punish the innocent you do not name call or blame the innocent for crimes they did not commit. You have an irrational fear of an inanimate object. Seek psychological help, as it shows you are mentally unstable. You treat the problem, you blame the person who committed the act not the tool they used. You treat the illness, and the problem goes away, but instead you deny the problem, and blame the innocent. You demand compromise when the side you demand it has already compromised to much. Grow up, and learn the truth. Grow up, and work to fix the problem not blame the innocent, and do not punish the innocent by demanding an unreasonable compromise because YOU have an irrational fear of an inanimate object out of ignorance. Get help for your mental illness, and pleas stop blaming the innocent, and inanimate objects. Work to actually productively solve the problem for once instead of blindly being a sheeple working to strip others of the right to chose how they defend there family. The first think HITLER did was t\disarm the populace then he started to mass murder.

    • Comment Link Andrew Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:41 posted by Andrew

      The 2nd amendment is the only protection the other amendments have. Once the 2nd is out of the way all of the others will fall. Some say the 2nd Amendment was meant for muskets and flintlocks well then we need to do away with the internet, tv and radio and all other forms of mass media and return to the Gutenburg printing press.

    • Comment Link DaveG Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:41 posted by DaveG

      I am a retired Marine. I can read. I understand our duties under both the federal and state constitutions:

      A reasonable person can take time to read and come to understand the impetus for the second amendment, as well as section 24 of WA's (my home) state constitution, which like 43 other state constitutions, is to prepare our nation and state to fight (and win battles) in armed combat against an enemy.

      Currently, there really isn't another kind of rifle would better fulfill the intended use of the 2nd amendment but an AR-15/M4 type, and Beretta M9 type pistol, in exactly the configuration, and with all of the accouterments, as used by servicemen in their duties and qualification, and civilian Service Rifle and Pistol competitors at Camp Perry.

      Among the many lawful users of the subject rifles, and all of their accessories, you will see our guardsmen and reservists, and active duty military , out of our own pocket, on our own time, supplementing the 5 days a year of range time for qualification, with practice on our own.

      Active duty and NG troops get their arms, and ammo from the governing bodies that budget and direct their use. The second amendment affirms the individual ability to train and equip our citizens for self defense and then also duty in the unorganized militia, in accordance with http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/311 and http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/312 , We all have corollaries to these at the state levels, like in http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=38.04.030 where governor may call up the state's unorganized militia under http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=38.08.050

      However, he is only responsible for training and equipping the organized militia, as evidenced by http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=38.20.050
      "Under the direction of the governor, the adjutant general shall, at the expense and in the name of the state, buy or lease, establish, equip, maintain and control such small arms ranges and issue such ammunition, transportation and supplies as may be necessary to provide each unit of the organized militia of Washington with adequate means and opportunity for thorough instruction in small arms”.

      Even if the state had the means to arm every 18 + year old male or female citizen that could possibly be called up, it would be useless to do so without them (us) receiving adequate training, which won’t be possible under the exigent circumstances that would require a call-up of our unorganized militia. So we continue to do this, on our own.

      Any other lawful use that we have for firearms is an ancillary benefit of the natural right of self preservation, and those statutes all affirm and utilize that ability, to ensure that we can also respond to threats to our community.

    • Comment Link Jordan Clouse Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:41 posted by Jordan Clouse

      Interesting that those arguing for the motion have determined the Constitution is no longer valid and thus law abiding citizens should be disarmed, all in the name of complying with a "modern" society. Let's go right to destroying the Constitution instead of requiring the enforcement of gun laws currently on the books. If you do like guns and do not want to own one, then don't; just make sure you put a sign in your front yard that says you do not have any guns in your house. That will make it easier for the criminals that do own guns to decide which house to rob. I guess you would rather see an innocent person raped or murdered than a criminal suffer consequences for his actions.

    • Comment Link Bruce Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:40 posted by Bruce

      The need for American citizens to keep and bear arms hasn't diminished as this country has become more dangerous and our Constitutional Rights have been stripped one by one, until our Constitution is all but recognizable from the one we inherited. There needs to be a stand against tyranny, and this present government is doing their best to make it an unarmed stand. The enemies of our Republic haven't disappeared, they have multiplied and usurped the power of the citizens of this great country.

    • Comment Link Dustin C Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:39 posted by Dustin C

      If you don't like our Constitution, move away. Simple as that. You aren't under any obligation to live here if you don't like it. Get the hell out.

    • Comment Link Adam Ludlam Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:38 posted by Adam Ludlam

      This is stupid. It's a CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT!!! Did u read that last part??? "Shall not be infringed." And that's exactly what the government is overlooking! Hindering American use or possession of firearms is not gonna stop criminals from obtaining them. I live in CA and fully automatic assault weapons are illegal. But Christopher Dorner still got ahold of them when he decided to shoot up SoCal and kill all those people. One of whom was Jeremiah McKay. A sherif deputy who not only worked in my town (Lake Arrowhead) but graduated from the very same high school I did earlier this year (Lake Arrowhead Christian School). He had a gun, the other deputies with him had a gun...but casualties still resulted. What would have happened if those officers had not been armed? What the hell are these people thinking?!?!? I think those people will change their minds when their daughters are raped and murdered in their own homes and they couldn't do a thing because they did not keep a gun in their house and the rapist had one in his hand. Let me give u a word of advice. We have always had the right to bear arms. And well do a damn sight better having them and not needing them than needing them and not having them. Think about that you unrespectful liberalistic SOBs...

    • Comment Link Arthur Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:38 posted by Arthur

      Plane and simple, it does not matter how well trained our law enforcement officers are. Or how big our standing army is. The 2nd amendment is about giving us individually the right to protect ourselves. In fact more people are able to protect them selves through the possession of a gun every day then are killed by guns. The quote that helps sum up this thought. When seconds count the police are only minutes away.

    • Comment Link Mark Sharon Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:38 posted by Mark Sharon

      Our country was founded on the 2nd amendment for a purpose to never let tyranny govern us again! I would never give up this most fundamental right! To even ask this question shows a lack of intelligence by the pollster

    • Comment Link Eddy Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:37 posted by Eddy

      Tell that to the multitudes of victims of violent crime of all kinds! Tell that to the numerous law-abiding folks whose guns have SAVED their own lives and/or that of their loved ones! Liberal whiners are the useless ones!

    • Comment Link Meagan Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:36 posted by Meagan

      We may indeed have a well trained military and police force, but when seconds count, the police are minutes away. Everyone should have the right to defend themselves in the moment.

    • Comment Link Bo Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:36 posted by Bo

      my opinion: we either have the right to protect ourselves, or pay someone that's a 15-25min drive away to do it for us. I would rather keep money in my pocket and protect myself. A firearm on me/ with me is way more deterring to a criminal that being unarmed.

    • Comment Link Charlie Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:36 posted by Charlie

      The 2nd Amendment is the portion of the Constitution that allows liberal think tanks like this the ability to exist. If we did not have the right to defend ourselves, it would only be a matter of time until someone decides that all those in opposition should be struck down in a gulag, or worse.

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