MIAMI - The "March for Our Lives" demonstration in Washington, after the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, prompted 98-year-old retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens to write a letter to the editor of the New York Times.
"Rarely in my lifetime have I seen the type of civic engagement school children and their supporters demonstrated in Washington and other major cities throughout the country," Stevens said.
His letter was published just three days after "March for Our Lives," when hundreds of thousands of protestors took the streets all over the country to demand gun control after a disturbed 19-year-old former student used an AR-15 rifle to kill 17 -- 14 students and three teachers.
Stevens called for more than gun control. He took on the Second Amendment, and it wasn't the first time. The self-described judicial conservative, appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1975, wrote the dissenting opinion in the District of Columbia v. Heller. The landmark 2008 Supreme Court decision that for first time, in the history of the constitution, held 5 to 4, that the second amendment protects a civilian's right to keep a hand gun at home for self-defense.
"There's no other country in the world that has this problem, and it's because of this very, very narrow, particular position in our law that's way wrong and is causing untold damage," Stevens said.
Stevens maintains that the Second Amendment was never intended to be about an individual's right to bear arms, but rather the collective right of those individuals serving in state militias.
Here's exactly what the Second Amendment says:
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.
Stevens thinks the Second Amendment had a much more limited purpose and has been distorted by the National Rifle Association and many people who are sympathetic to their goals.
He wasn't alone. In 1991, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative Nixon appointee, famously said that if he were writing the Bill of Rights, there wouldn't be a Second Amendment.
Gun advocates make the case that Americans need guns to fight against government tyranny.
"It seems to me that there are a lot of other countries in the world that get along perfectly well without a Second Amendment," Stevens said.
Stevens said that since his letter was published, he has received plenty of pushback. NRA TV host Grant Stinchfield lashed out at him, but he remains undeterred.
Even though it is a Supreme Court justice's duty to interpret the law, Stevens said he is allowed to advocate for changing the constitution, because he is retired.
"I still have my citizenship, and I'm free to say what I feel," he said.
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