Former Supreme Court Justice: Amend 2nd Amendment

April 21, 2014 - 10:25 AM

Justice Stevens Book

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in his new book, recommends six rewrites to the U.S. Constitution. He would restrict gun ownership to militia members; ban the death penalty; and allow government to set "reasonable limits" on campaign financing, among other things.

But Stevens says he's no radical:

"I think every one of my proposals is a moderate proposal," Stevens told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

One of Steven's proposals would add five words to the Second Amendment, which would then read: "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms, when serving in the militia, shall not be infringed."

Stevens agreed that adding those five words would allow legislatures and Congress, rather than the courts, to "do what they think is in the best public interest."

Stevens says America's Founding Fathers never intended the Second Amendment to be an individual right: He said the framers feared that the "federal government would be so strong they might destroy the state militias."

Stephanopoulos followed up: "But to be clear, if Congress passed a national ban on individual gun ownership, that would be constitutional under your amendment."

"I think that's right," Stevens said.

Stevens would add words to two other sections as well, making the death penalty unconstitutional; and specifying that all public officials in every state “shall be bound by the supreme law of the land.”

For example, the 8th Amendment would read a follows: Excessive Bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted.

And the Supremacy Clause of Article VI would read: “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges and other public officials in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

The former Supreme Court justice also wants to ban gerrymandering, the practice of drawing congressional lines to maximize political clout. "It doesn't take a genius to say that there's something fishy with these particular districts," he told Stephanopoulos.

Stevens wants the Constitution to say that congressional districts “shall be compact and composed of contiguous territory. The state shall have the burden of justifying any departures from this requirement…”

He wants curbs on campaign finance: “Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”

And Stevens would limit sovereign immunity, by stating that nothing in the Constitution or its Amendments “shall be construed to provide any state, state agency, or state officer with an immunity from liability for violating any Act of Congress, or any provision of this Constitution.”

Stevens said he believes that eventually, all of his proposed amendments will pass. "Well, perhaps today there might be no chance for certainly the Second Amendment proposal," he said, "but the difficulty of the process shouldn't foreclose an attempt."

Stevens, a Gerald Ford appointee who retired in 2010, was replaced by Elena Kagan. His new book is titled, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.