Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens is at it again with a new book in which he evidently revives his philosophical battle against the Second Amendment, as detailed in reviews appearing in the New York Times and Washington Post.
The new 531-page book—his third since retiring in 2010 to be replaced by Elena Kagan—provides another opportunity in which he reiterates his long-held argument that the high court’s 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller was “Unquestionably the most clearly incorrect decision that the Court announced during my tenure on the bench,” as quoted by the Washington Post.
The book is titled “The Making of a Justice.”
Stevens will be recalled as the retired justice who last year authored an opinion piece in the New York Times that declared the Second Amendment should be repealed. At the time, Stevens was on the losing side in the 5-4 Heller ruling, as he seems to have been on many other cases. The WaPo review quotes him observing about losses thusly: “It happens so often that you have to get used to losing.” Could it be that it was Stevens who was apparently so often wrong during his 36 years on the high court, and not majorities that out-voted him?
Stevens’ dissent in Heller was scathingly ripped by majority author Antonin Scalia. The late associate justice at one point suggested that Stevens’ argument was “worthy of the mad hatter.” Scalia later in the opinion (Pages 49-50) said Stevens’ arguments against the Second Amendment being protective of an individual right were weak.
Perhaps nothing so clearly reflects the retired justice’s animosity toward a cornerstone of the Bill of Rights than a quote in the WaPo in which he stated, “I think there’s no need for all the guns we have in the country and if I could get rid of one thing it would be to get rid of that whole gun climate.”
Stevens is 99 years old. During WWII he was a Navy code-breaker. He was nominated to the federal bench by then-President Richard Nixon and to the Supreme Court by former president Gerald Ford. Yet he was described by the WaPo as the court’s “most outspoken liberal.”
In this new book, Stevens acknowledges that he went to considerable effort to sway his fellow justices away from ruling that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to keep and bear arms that was separate from service in a militia.
Reviews of Stevens’ new book might reveal more about the reviewers and their publications than about the contents of this new memoir, because they highlight the retired justice’s remarks about the Heller ruling and the Second Amendment. It seems important to the reviewers to discuss Stevens’ minority opinion about gun rights.
The Second Amendment has been under fire for decades, and now that the Supreme Court has accepted another gun rights case, this one challenging a restrictive gun control law in New York City, the barrages will likely intensify. But the new makeup of the high court, with Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, might leave anti-gunners shooting nothing but blanks.