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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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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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 larry rogers Thursday, 14 November 2013 23:07 posted by larry rogers

      against the motion

    • Comment Link Rich Grise Thursday, 14 November 2013 23:07 posted by Rich Grise

      People say, "Just a little regulation"

      That's the first step down the slippery slope to confiscation and eventual death camps.

      There can be no exceptions to the Constitution.

    • Comment Link Chris D Thursday, 14 November 2013 23:00 posted by Chris D

      Let's weed out the fallacies from both sides to start. To say that we will "slide down a slippery slope" by controlling firearms to the point where only governmental powers will have possession is an extreme hypothetical situation. Find a police department whose officers will personally go door-to-door collecting firearms and I'll tell you that you are a liar. One, the manpower required would be too demanding; Two the risk the officers would face is not worth their badge or their lives, they have families too. One the other side of the argument we cannot appeal to authority, simply because Holder, Obama, Pelosi, and Feinstein say guns are a scourge to our nation it does not make it gospel. Firearms provide responsible users with a means to defense, a means to survival, and a means of recreation. We cannot bring everyone back down to a level where everyone has a knife or a pointy stick as far as weapons go, someone, somewhere will build it better to stand off an attack. In my mind should something go bump in the night my pistol is a fairly good deterrent but nothing too shocking, my shotgun creates a little more pucker factor, however if I were to grab my AR-15 from the closet and point it at the assailant the intimidation factor is increased to the point where they will probably freeze or get lost in panic, now that I have them on the ground in soiled pants the police may collect them. Will I need all 30 rounds, probably not, but I'd rather have all of them and not need them, then have a single shot weapon that fails to fire and now my wife, my daughter, and myself are all at risk.

    • Comment Link Joe Thursday, 14 November 2013 22:51 posted by Joe

      I agree with William Molenda
      There isn't a time limit on the Constitution. There is a limit to the power of the federal gov. That is set in the Constitution, for a reason.
      There has been a system to teach firearm safety to civilian for almost a hundred years. It is called the Civilian Marksmanship Program. The NRA also has safety courses.
      My suggestion is to use them.
      A basic right we have is to defend our homes, and family. It is that simple.

    • Comment Link twinstick Thursday, 14 November 2013 22:29 posted by twinstick

      I only have two words to say about this.

      Molon Labe...

    • Comment Link Michael Thursday, 14 November 2013 22:15 posted by Michael

      Hey Steve,

      You've got it all wrong, mate. Violet offenses were defined differently in the UK vs. the US. The US definition is much more stringent ("murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault") than the UK definition ("Violent crime covers a wide range of offences, from minor assaults such as pushing and shoving that result in no physical harm through to serious incidents of wounding and murder"). So you can't compare the stats like you did. It's apples vs. oranges.

      If you compare the *homicide* rates in an apples vs. apples comparison, the rate in the US is 4.7 per 100,000 and it is about .9 per 100,000 in the UK, based on Table A4 of the data you referred to ( In other words, the US homicide rate is about 5x higher.

      Lesson learned 1: Be careful with your stats.
      Lesson learned 2: You're more likely to get killed in the US than the UK.
      Lesson people will never learn: These types of casual, cherry picked comparisons are almost always useless. The gun laws aren't the only things that are different between the US and UK. Attributing differences in the murder rates to the gun laws without controlling for these other differences is highly imprudent.

    • Comment Link Kirk Thursday, 14 November 2013 22:13 posted by Kirk

      The second protects the first, it's that simple. If we forget that and allow the 2nd to be take away the 1st will follow suit and we'll have ourselves to blame.

      Either you can repel tyranny or you can't. Those who can't are oppressed.

    • Comment Link GLENN DEAN Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:59 posted by GLENN DEAN


    • Comment Link Brian Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:59 posted by Brian

      The RIGHT to defend oneself, their family, their friends, their community, and their country if need be; regardless of the manner in which they choose to is as basic to EVERYONE as food and water. therefore, the right of ANYONE who chooses to keep and bear arms for defense is not for debate. never has been...never WILL be. these people who claim that there IS a debate are merely blowing smoke and sunshine in people's faces(among OTHER areas) thinking that the world is rainbows and unicorns and that good law abiding citizens can freely skip through fields of clover unmolested by those who HAVE done harm to others and WILL do so again whenever or wherever given the opportunity sadly will NEVER come to grip with reality. THIS is reality is FAR from the fabricated kumbaya pipe dream that gun control advocates try so desperately to claim every time they perceive their chance to address yet another failed claim that Gun Owners are falsely to blame for such things as the Gang violence that is so prevalent in "Gun Free" cities and states that continues to run rampant regardless of the Federal as well as state laws that were placed to "prevent" such things as well as the mass shootings that have been committed in KNOWN GUN FREE ZONES, that these measures have likewise failed to curb or end altogether.

    • Comment Link your mom Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:57 posted by your mom

      Since this is a country for the people by the people... The vote to the right of the page answers the question

    • Comment Link Jonathan Wong Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:49 posted by Jonathan Wong

      And you wonder why Americans for flocking to gun stores?

    • Comment Link Tom Farr Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:48 posted by Tom Farr

      To say the second amendment is anachronistic and misrepresented because guns were single shot weapons back then, is like saying, ok, books are protected by free speech, but DVDs, and MP3's etc., are not because they weren't around back then? That makes about as much sense as an elevator in an outhouse. Also why is it that EVERY other amendment is about the peoples individual right, yet the second amendment is about the militia? Wake up and smell the communism seeping in to this country.

    • Comment Link Bill Starks Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:46 posted by Bill Starks

      In the Supreme court case Warren vs DC the courts ruled that "The police are not there to protect you as an individual but to protect society as a whole." So you folks keep calling 911 and waiting on help.....
      The first amendment does not apply to pen & presses why does the second only apply to muskets??

    • Comment Link Frank Albert Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:32 posted by Frank Albert

      You can give most of the credit for these insanities to Billy Clinton. He created and pushed for 'safe shooter zones' at schools, parks, and many other places. Before then, nobody used these areas since many teachers and students had firearms in schools. Many schools even had shooting teams.
      The NRA went to schools on regular basis just to teach firearm safety classes so children would know NOT to pick up a firearm and just pull the trigger.
      Those classes were like the classes a fireman would teach about safety. Not how to shoot people, nor how to start fires. Just how to be safe and what to do or not do.
      What needs to be done to re-educate the people and like hte chief of InterPol says, arm the civilians to prevent these tragedies from happening again. Just like the Calackas Mall Massacre of 2012 was stopped.

    • Comment Link LED Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:31 posted by LED

      Gun control does nothing to make you safer. When you petition for gun control you are actually giving corrupt politicians a way out of having to solve the underlying cause of violent crime while you are not actually improving things. A criminal is always going to be armed. Background checks do not stop straw purchases, theft of firearms and the international black market. We should be working on reducing the incentive to commit crimes, improving education and access to mental health care and incentivizing clean records. If you support UBC or any kind of gun ownership suppression laws (gun control, gun safety or whatever they are calling it) you are helping perpetuate a corrupt system in which politicians get away with doing nothing to fix underlying problems.

      Gun control is a scam. Gun control is government corruption. Gun control is futile, destructive and keeps society repressed on a type of legislation that has failed throughout the world.

    • Comment Link Independent Voter Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:18 posted by Independent Voter

      The Democrats favor the criminal element every time they carefully identify a place as being full of unarmed victims. They also bow to Islam, which teaches the violent murder of all who refuse to convert.
      They even claim to protect a certain special rights group, while supporting Sharia Law, which would look the other way as their supposedly favored group is executed by the Jihadists. Ironically, that same special rights group fails to see that the party they think will protect them actually considers them to be expendable in the march towards worldwide Sharia.

    • Comment Link Divlji Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:18 posted by Divlji

      #Tom Marren
      So you think that 1st apply only on parchment and ink ?? Since technology improved on way to communicate.
      Supreme court decided what meaning of the 2A is. Sorry you lose.

    • Comment Link Gilbert Albans Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:10 posted by Gilbert Albans

      First, Militia is broken into two categories: (1) Organized Militia & (2) Unorganized Militia. (1) Contains only the National Guard & the National Guard is contained within the US Military, i.e. if you sign up for the National Guard then you have signed up for the US Military. When you become a member of the US Military you have become the property of the US government, i.e. you are their property. (2) Contains all individuals who are 18-45 years old & aren't part of the US Military.

      Second, both the Federal & State government have no legal obligation to protect either your life, your liberty, or property, from being violated by other private individuals. Thus, the government only have a legal obligation to protect your life, your liberty, and your property from being violated by the government. So when your life is in danger, the government wouldn't want you to protect your life from infringement. They want you to be a cow lead to the slaughter.

      Third, Syria is a classic example of why we have a second amendment. Syria is a repressive government (as the President and Congress has stated), and the Syrian government has a monopoly on arms and using those arms against their citizens. Since the Syrian people aren't armed to fight against a repressive government, the US and it's allies have had to ship in weapons for the people to fight against a repressive government. Repressive governments fear an armed citizenry, it means the people place a check on their government or what their government can do.

      Fourth, if you look at the world, you notice that those areas that are heavily populated have more violence. There is a direct correlation between high population density and murders or violence. The US having one of the largest populations, and some of the largest urban density in the world, would also have some of the highest numbers of murder as well. People crowded into a concert jungle is going to lead to conflict, especially when you have the have-nots living right next to the have's.

    • Comment Link Ronald Steadman-Keanon Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:05 posted by Ronald Steadman-Keanon

      I'm thinking this poll isn't going the way they thought it would... Bwahahahaha

    • Comment Link Rory L. Banes Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:02 posted by Rory L. Banes

      I believe in the second Amendment to protect us from a government that can become too corrupt the same Nuts that would take away our rights could also pass other laws that could even be more corrupt

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