The Constitutional Right To Bear Arms Has Outlived Its Usefulness

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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


    Alan Dershowitz

    Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

  • levinson sanford  90pix


    Sanford Levinson

    Professor of Law and of Government, University of Texas

  • Kopel official 90


    David Kopel

    Research Director, Independence Institute & Associate Policy Analyst, Cato Institute

  • volokh eugene90


    Eugene Volokh

    Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

    • Moderator Image


      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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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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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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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

Online Voting

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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    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Comment Link IAN MACKENZIE Thursday, 14 November 2013 06:54 posted by IAN MACKENZIE


    • Comment Link Russ Hammond Thursday, 14 November 2013 06:49 posted by Russ Hammond

      read Warren versus the District of Columbia and that will show you that our only real protection is the second Amendment.

    • Comment Link James Buckler Thursday, 14 November 2013 06:30 posted by James Buckler

      " When the first amendment was drafted our forefathers intended that you had the right to speak your mind, write without fear of persecution, and right to assemble and speak at town hill (Town Crier). They never envisioned we would have phones, satellites, fax machines, televisions, internet, etc etc....Technology has increased so vastly in communications that there is no feasible means of regulating it.. So under this line of logic it has outlived it usefulness as well.....I'm personally not a huge fan of the idea that the only 1st amendment rights I would be entitled to are gathering at the Town Hall and yelling at the crowd, or writing my thoughts down on a piece of parchment paper with a turkey feather. " -James Buckler-

    • Comment Link tom Thursday, 14 November 2013 06:28 posted by tom

      I have to wonder about anyone who wants to abolish a constitutional right on grounds of it being dated. There are those in America that by their statements and actions regard the First Amendment as being obsolete. And you have elected and law enforcement officials who ignore the Fourth Amendment who view it as a impediment. Beware of anyone who wants to abolish the Second because it is a certainty they will not stop with just repealing the right to bear arms

    • Comment Link ben Thursday, 14 November 2013 06:26 posted by ben

      When the American people feel the 2nd has out lived usefulness people will stop buying guns. When a legislative body tries to pass a law banning or restricting guns and you see a surge in sales that says to me people feel the 2nd is still very important.

    • Comment Link Risky Whiskey Thursday, 14 November 2013 06:19 posted by Risky Whiskey

      Without the Second Amendment remaining intact....the other components of the Bill of Rights, the US constitution, the D of I etc. will be steadily and overtly legislated away from the people by a congress that is wholly owned and run by the elite and untouchable class of this country.

      Those who believe otherwise are sheep...those who rely on the sheep to do their dirty work for them and lean on their leftist elected officials to disarm America's citizens are the wolves. Those who maintain their arms, proficiency at arms, vigilance which comes with the responsibility of owning and carrying arms, and their sense of civic duty and patriotism in their willingness to use arms to protect the nation, the country and our sacred Constitution are sheepdogs.

      And THIS sheepdog will never allow a leftist-indoctrinated, atheist-leaning, statistics-manipulating, social experimenting liberal take his guns away.....EVER.

    • Comment Link cstehling Thursday, 14 November 2013 06:18 posted by cstehling

      The citizens of NY State have rejected Cuomo's gun grab, 52 of 62 counties and over 324 towns and cities have drafted and approved resolutions calling for the total repeal of the NY SAFE ACT.

      The NY SAFE ACT targets law abiding citizens and their legally purchased rifles and pistols. Rifles they have passed background checks to purchase.

      The NY Safe ACT does not target the mentally ill, criminals, parolees, and their illegal rifles and pistols. The criminals are still committing their crimes despite the NY SAFE ACT.

      NY STATE is spending hundreds millions of tax payer dollars it does not have (just like CA) to track law abiding citizens and their legally owned property, Property that poses no threat to anyone,


    • Comment Link tlawzero Thursday, 14 November 2013 05:41 posted by tlawzero

      Wow, lets clear up a few things. The founders knew weapon technology would advance. The musket was state of the art when the second amendment was writen.
      Who among you claims to have the right to tell me that I'm not free to own guns. We are NOT a democracy because democracies are inherently corrupt. 51% of the population does not get to tell 49% what to do. To take my right to do what I choose without proving it to take somone else's rights is tyranny. Those who are in the middle and for "some" regulation how is it that you claim to know what I need for my defence?
      Last, the second amendment is about militia. Who on the gun control side has the clairvoyance to say their will never be a need for Americans to take arms and for militia? And if that comes what invader will we successfuly repel with muskets. The bill of rights is a list of rules for our government to make sure the power remains with the people. The burden of proof to take my right to own a gun falls on those who wish to take them and my right to due process means it must be individually, in court, and you must prove it diminishes the rights of others. This is true even without the second amendment. Precedent set by tyrant's that have successfully taken other right is irrelevant.
      And as far as a well trained police force, I can defend myself faster, better and with certainty of purpose. So even if it was in their mandate to protect I still maintain the right to protect myself.

    • Comment Link Dennis Bowen Thursday, 14 November 2013 05:23 posted by Dennis Bowen

      If we give up our right to bear arms there will be more imboldened criminals walking the streets robbing and killing more people than ever!!!!! It is our inalienable right to keep and bear arms. We have a right to protect ourselves from enemies, both foreign and DOMESTIC!!!!

    • Comment Link Mike Wickerham Thursday, 14 November 2013 05:15 posted by Mike Wickerham

      David Roberts is so on the mark. What he stated is true, and there is nothing that I could add. Governments destroy liberty and kill people.

    • Comment Link Dennis Thursday, 14 November 2013 04:22 posted by Dennis

      our current administration proves that the 2nd amendment is not obsolete. our forefathers could see the possibilities of Obama type administrations and the need for citizens to be able to protect themselves.

    • Comment Link Gordon Thursday, 14 November 2013 03:55 posted by Gordon

      "Shall NOT be infringed." What is so hard to understand about that??? The Second Amendment protects All our Liberties. When will all the Sheeple get their heads out of their @$$es and understand that???

    • Comment Link Patrick Chester Thursday, 14 November 2013 03:47 posted by Patrick Chester

      "Civilized countries allow guns as a privilege, if that, not a right. We need to become civilized:"

      You seem to be confusing civlization with domestication.

      The answer is no.

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