John Paul Stevens helpfully rewrites the constitution for you

This story already popped up in the headlines earlier today, but there are a number of other goodies in this particular package. In some coverage of former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’ new book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, people were understandably focusing on his proposed change to the Second Amendment.


“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

This long discredited, but highly useful to the Left Wing interpretation of the Second Amendment would serve many purposes for those who would see American citizens disarmed. Such a change would essentially alter the foundation of the concept – as well as the vision of the Founders – to essentially declare that the right to bear arms was not only not an individual right, but would be specifically limited to those in military or law enforcement service, and even then, only under the strict supervision and with the permission of government agents. The fact that there are still more than a few people desirous of such a change is disturbing in the extreme. But it also serves as a reminder of what we are constantly fighting against.

As I mentioned above, though, Stevens doesn’t stop with his vision of a gun grabbing despotic central authority.He goes on to list five others, covered here by Josh Blackman, which are worth a brief look as well.

The “Anti-Commandeering Rule” (Amend the Supremacy Clause of Article VI) 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.


This is the first of Stevens’ thinly – if at all – veiled efforts to prevent conservative, state level officials from arguing against constitutionally dubious commands from on high. In short, adding the phrase and other public officials to the Supremacy Clause would ensure that that all federal mandates could immediately be enacted by leashing state and local officials to their will, even if challenges to the ruling were in the offing.

Political Gerrymandering – Districts represented by members of Congress, or by members of any state legislative body, shall be compact and composed of contiguous territory. The state shall have the burden of justifying any departures from this requirement by reference to neutral criteria such as natural, political, or historical boundaries or demographic changes. The interest in enhancing or preserving the political power of the party in control of the state government is not such a neutral criterion.

This is one which, were it not for the general avarice of the federal government for power, I could almost get behind. Gerrymandering has led to numerous problems deriving from an entrenched class of permanent office holders. (And perhaps more importantly, their party machine bosses.) But the sort of mandate Stevens envisions here has two serious problems. First, it leaves itself open to wide interpretation which would lead to a logjam of court cases where the warring parties in each state would shut down the redistricting process entirely with a raft of constitutional challenges. Second, it seeks to once again usurp more power from the state and transfer it to Washington, which should be reason enough to oppose it in and of itself.


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.

This one is just a Democrat wish list item, plain and simple. I won’t waste any column space discussing why it has no place in the Constitution.

Sovereign Immunity – Neither the Tenth Amendment, the Eleventh Amendment, nor any other provision of this Constitution, 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

I’m not sure why this was included, since it’s really just a rehash of the first item on the list. This is more of an effort to put a boot on the throat of state and local governments – and the people of the many states who elect them – to ensure that no pesky group of citizens can question the authority of Washington in any matter whatsoever.

Death Penalty- (Amend the 8th Amendment) Excessive Bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted.

This is the only one of the bunch which, while I disagree with it personally, I could see as being valid to put to a vote on a national level. While I see the deterrent value in a carefully monitored, reviewed and administered death penalty, I understand that many people do not. If a significant enough portion of the population of enough states wanted to amend the constitution to expand “cruel and unusual” to include the death penalty, it would be a valid exercise of the amendment process and not really do anything else to deflate the remainder of the founding documents.


All in all, a better title for this book would be, Six Reasons You Should Thank God I’m Not on the Bench Anymore. Even if Stevens’ replacement wasn’t any better, this is a prime example of the kinds of “thinking” which will be in favor when the court sees a solid majority of such “thinkers” at SCOTUS. The sub-title for the book could have read, “My plan to finally edit that pesky Constitution and remake America the way I think it should be.”

I open the floor to an evening of discussion on Stevens’ various proposals.

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