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Thank you, Justice Stevens and Mrs. Obama

Friday, October 28, 2011

In case any reader of our weekly Grassroots Alert has not decided how to vote in the 2012 presidential election, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and First Lady Michelle Obama have volunteered to help him make up his mind.

Recently, Time magazine asked Stevens what he would fix about the American judicial system. Stevens' response:  "I would make all my dissents into majority opinions."  Fair enough, since he's entitled to think he is right, even when a majority of his former colleagues and a larger majority of the American citizenry disagree.

But then Time asked Stevens to single out one issue in particular, and he said, "I would change the interpretation of the Second Amendment." Referring to the Court's decisions in the Heller and McDonald cases that the Second Amendment protects individuals from federal, state and local infringements on their right to possess and carry arms, he added "The court got that quite wrong."

In his dissent in Heller, Stevens claimed that "there is no indication that the Framers of the [Second] Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution." And in his dissent in McDonald, he claimed that even if one assumed the Fourteenth Amendment protects a general right to self-defense, that didn't mean that a person has a right to have a handgun. As if to suggest some logic to his theory, Stevens said "while some might favor handguns, it is not clear that they are a superior weapon for lawful self-defense."

We have earlier noted the comment of another of the four justices who dissented from the majority's Heller and McDonald opinions, Stephen Breyer, to the effect that District of Columbia residents who don't like the city's onerous gun laws should go to Maryland. And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, another of the Heller and McDonald dissenters, has publicly indicated her hope that a "future, wiser court" will reconsider the Heller decision.

Of course, Justice Stevens and another of the four dissenting justices in Heller, Justice David Souter, have since retired and been replaced by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who dissented from the majority's decision in McDonald, and Justice Elena Kagan, who joined the Court in August 2010 and who had a clear anti-gun record during her service in the Clinton White house.

Sotomayor and Kagan were nominated to the Court by President Barack Obama, of course. And not long ago, during a pre-2012 campaign event, First Lady Michelle Obama asked some of the president's most ardent supporters to remember the Court's two newest justices when they go into the voting booth next year. In the upcoming election, she said, "we're going to make a choice that will impact our lives for decades to come . . . let's not forget what it meant when my husband appointed those two brilliant Supreme Court justices . . . let's not forget the impact that their decisions will have on our lives for decades to come."

Obama supporters will not forget, and neither should supporters of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment's margin of safety on the Court remains intact by merely one vote. Given the likelihood of at least one retirement from the Court during the next presidential term, the future of the amendment could easily hinge on Election Day 2012.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.