Hats off to the demonstrators on campus March 14 who advocated stronger gun laws (On the Campus, April 11)! I’m afraid, though, that the claim from one participant that “the right to (keep and) bear arms is not absolute” has run into a stone wall from the uncooperative NRA over the years.
Such stubborn resistance has prevented much useful action in the past, a situation deplored recently by retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens. He echoes a blast in 1991 from another retired justice, Warren Burger, that the argument that the Second Amendment protected individual gun rights was the biggest fraud he’d ever encountered.
Both were complaining about the NRA’s high-handed manner, after it was taken over by extremists in 1977, to manipulate the public’s conception of the Second Amendment. Its new leader, Harlon Carter, boasted that the NRA would be recruiting lawyers, constitutional scholars, etc., “to provide the means to save (sic) the Second Amendment.”
It might be worthwhile for the faculty of a major university to help students in a group like Princeton Against Gun Violence to pin down the evidence that there is no way the Second Amendment can be seen as still existing. They might begin with The First Congress by Fergus Bordewich (2016) and its useful mention of the Vining committee, which in 1789 made sure an all-important conditional clause was included at the beginning of the amendment’s clearly stated final version.