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 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.

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

      I will never surrender my GOD GIVEN RIGHT to defend myself from whatever I deem necessary to my survival or safety. The only thing that stops bad men with guns is good men with guns.

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

      As long as there are bad people (who will always find a way to get a gun), tyrants, and out-of-control police; there is a necessity for good people to be armed. This need is the reason for the Second Amendment. It is still, and will probably always be, relevant and necessary.

    • Comment Link Sandra Jackson Pring Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:36 posted by Sandra Jackson Pring

      The Constitution is Our law, not made for the Politicians. It is made to protect us from the politicians. I am certain they think it is outlived its usefulness as it prevents them from taking advantage of We the People. JUST SAY NO..NO INFRINGMENTS..NO TO ANY CHANGES AND NO TO THE ADMINISTRATION. The Constitution is our final word.. Its the law and we do not want it changed. Out of 500 million firearms, only .001 % are ever used to commit murder and that is by criminals, not law abiding firearms owners. Educate yourself, stand by your beliefs, and Know, it is our God Given Right to Defend ourselves from Tyrants as well as anyone who would try to do us harm. I will not be a victim, again.. ever.

    • Comment Link Tim Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:35 posted by Tim

      seems this site should be named or maybe

      It's not guns that are the problem, it's the moral decay that is consuming our country. That and the FACT that people are not held accountable for their actions, thay are deemed to be ill or it is someone else's fault that they found a gun and pointed it at another human and pulled the trigger without cause.

      Start making those people pay for their crimes and you will see the incident rate drop. Guaranteed.

    • Comment Link will cor Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:33 posted by will cor

      the second amendment is as valid as ever, and for the same reasons as always. tyranny of petty criminals and corruption of state are no less a "thing" than they were two hundred or even two thousand years gone. arms will mean guns until something better comes along, and free men who would defend what they work for will have them.

    • Comment Link Daniel Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:32 posted by Daniel

      The purpose of the 2nd Amendment has been and always will be the preservation of individual rights and freedom. For defense of self and family, for the defense against invasion and the defense of democracy against oppressive domestic governments. Time has moved on, but the will to oppress and control has not, and there are men that would wish to take over the USA, who either reside in foreign lands or within this great nation. The first line of defense always has been, and always will be, the militiaman, who is simply an individual, an ordinary citizen, who is trained to use a firearm, in defense of self, family and country, should the need arise. Anyone who says that we should simply rely on the government, the Army and the Police for all of our defense, is putting far too much trust in their promptness, adequate force, and even the trustworthiness that they could not one day turn against us. What worries me, is that when the amendment was written, a musket was equal to practically any other so there was no difference in firepower between the army and militia; in terms of firearms, cannons are a different story. But now, the individual is only allowed in most states to have semi-automatic weapons, while the Army has access to the worlds most powerful weapons ever created, let alone tanks, aircraft, and the like. Although i am not advocating that everyone could or even should have automatic weapons, saying that the American people shouldn't even have Semi-automatic rifles is a big step toward tyranny. The majority of people i see who are in favor of drastic gun control or even complete gun abolition, are those that seem insistent that the Government knows whats best and people can't be trusted with such things, like we are children. I grieve over tragedies that involve shootings, but rather than abdicate our guns, hoping that will make us safer, we should realize we live in a dangerous world, where, too often, the only way to stop force is with force. We must take responsibility for our lives, and in so doing, demonstrate that we love freedom and the responsibility that comes with it, more than our very lives. That is how the Founders felt, should we not aspire to the same goal?

    • Comment Link Doug Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:32 posted by Doug

      When the constitution is no longer useful, FREEDOM will have lost it's usefulness as well. It is written "the right to bare arms" because they knew we would have different weaponry and "arms" will be used to defend ourselves from tyrants.

    • Comment Link nate Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:31 posted by nate

      9 to 1.... looks like logic prevails this time

    • Comment Link Mark Buxman Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:31 posted by Mark Buxman

      With the current state of affairs in the world keeping the citizenry armed is more important than ever. The response time from the police is to long to be an effective solution to protection. Peopke need to accept responsibility for themseves. Without a means to protect themselves you are leaving them to be nothing but victims.

    • Comment Link Bruce A Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:30 posted by Bruce A

      The police are not there 24/7 to "protect" you.. they are there to fill out the paper work afterwards...
      They also do NOT carry guns to protect YOU. Their guns are for THEIR protection... They have no legal obligation to provide for your safety... if they did... you could sue them if you were not protected in the event of a crime against you.

    • Comment Link nate Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:30 posted by nate

      9 to 1.... looks like logic prevails this time

    • Comment Link Chuck Morris Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:29 posted by Chuck Morris

      Which amendment is next? The fourth? The first? The purpose of the second amendment is protect us from tyranny...both foreign and domestic. Not to preserve our hunting or sporting rights. How could it possibly be outdated and no longer useful? Can you honestly debate that the federal government has our best interests at heart? Can you do it w/ a straight face?

    • Comment Link Lilith Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:28 posted by Lilith

      The morons making up this entire administration are either extremely uneducated, or they do have working brains and are using all of these tragedies to further their power grab. Most likely the latter. No matter what they think they have the right to do, the millions of gun owners in this country will not give up this right, period. And neither will I. People are waking up, so do some research instead of believing everything you're told like some mindless sheep. Obama and his puppets are a waste of time, debt, and just a plain waste of oxygen. In the near future, we will be saying 'I told you so', and it will be too late to change anything. No wonder our government is the laughing stock of the world... He is only keeping our country divided. "United we stand, divided we fall."

    • Comment Link Caleb Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:28 posted by Caleb

      Well the for the motion is very easily defeatable. The high murder rate in the US is generated by 4 Metropolitan areas: Washington DC, Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans. Guess what all these have in common? Strict gun control. Take these 4 cities out and the US sits almost at the bottom of violence rates.

      A standing army or police force cannot protect you against criminals. Organized police forces cannot prevent organized crime, let alone unorganized. The police do not have a duty to protect you from harm, as per the Supreme Court. Even if it was, do you think their $40,000/year salary is worth a stranger's personal safety? I can respond much faster and better than a police force. Police shoot innocents at a far greater ratio than civilians do. Civilians stop mass shootings before they become FBI defined mass shootings. Why don't you here about it? Civilians stop mass shooters with 2.2 victims while police response time allows for over 11 victims. So why don't you hear about it? The FBI doesn't classify something as a mass shooting unless there are 4 victims. Civilians are not only better, but they prevent mass shootings.

      Lastly, the second amendment was not created to regulate firearm advancements, but rather to prevent its regulation. It was designed as a last resort to prevent a tyrannical government. It was designed to not do what you are accusing it of not doing. It was this way by DESIGN.

      It has shown in study after study, guns are much safer in civilian hands than in the hands of government officials who have little incentive to use them responsibly.

      What separates you and I from a "well-trained" government official? We're both people, he just has a badge and a different set of clothes. I'm a 12B in the Army, and there is nothing special that equips us from operating a weapon any more than a non-military citizen.

      Besides, given the historical track record of misuses of weapons by governments, I'd much rather see them in civilian hands. Don't think our government is capable of it? Think our government wouldn't do it? Not trying to compare apples to apples here, so don't accuse me of it. Hitler was elected to power, so don't think any current present or future elected leader wouldn't be capable or willing to misuse weapons against their own citizens.

    • Comment Link Tim Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:28 posted by Tim

      "Shall not be infringed" what is there to debate?

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