Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has a few ‘tweaks’ for the Constitution

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has a new book out that outlines the six changes he would like to see made to the Constitution. In the book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, Stevens explains how he would amend the First, Second, and Eighth Amendments among other things. On radio this morning, Glenn took particular issue with Stevens’ interpretation and historical understanding of the Second Amendment.

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The Second Amendment currently reads:

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.

But Stevens argues the Founding Fathers were really concerned about being oppressed by a national standing army when they wrote the amendment – not the right to self-defense. As a result, he would like to see five key words added:

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.

Glenn took issue with what he believes to be faulty historical reasoning from Stevens. When you consider the Bill of Rights as a whole, Glenn believes you will come to understand that the amendments were in fact centered on the rights of the individual.

“Can I ask you a question? Everything in the Constitution came from the revolutionaries that fought for our freedom. They saw the problems with the king… but the one thing the king had that [they] liked: He had all the guns, and [they] couldn’t have any. [So they made] sure [they] put that in there? That was a good thing? That doesn’t make any sense,” Glenn said exasperatedly. “So wait a minute. The Founders, who wanted the make sure that none of the problems they had with the king could ever happen to anyone else – and one of their big problems was guns – only wanted the military to have them? That’s crazy. The military is in the hands of the king?

“It’s so insultingly stupid,” Stu concluded. “At this point, the progressives will go to, ‘Well, it’s an old document, and they couldn’t imagine these weapons.’ They could not make a Constitutional argument.”

Front page image courtesy of the AP

  • ThorsteinVeblen2012

    The Constitutional Convention was convened as a result of Shay’s Rebellion. The Founding Fathers wanted a central government to put down popular insurrections and to have the authority to collect taxes

    My question is what constitutes a militia? Is it a federal militia or a local vigilante group?

    What constitutes “bearing arms” is that bearing them in public or the act of owning them?

    • Bonnie Somer

      NONE of these liberals want us to defend ourselves but they i am sure have many armed guards w/guns w/them

    • Anonymous

      It doesn’t matter what constitutes a militia. The right to bear arms and possess them as private property as a civilian is not ever, under any circumstance, to be infringed. When the private citizens are threatened they create the militia with the arsenal of weaponry that they already had the right to own previously, according to the Constitution.

      • D. Zortea

        Well stated!

    • Constitutional Militia

      The Constitution serially recognizes the”militia” (See: Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 15 and 16, Article 2, Section 2, Amendment 2 and 5). Also, the “militia” is the only thing the Constitution calls “necessary” (2nd Amendment) for any reason whatsoever in the entire document. So how does one define “militia” as used in the Constitution at the time the document was ratified? By the statutes that addressed them. Militia structures had existed in the American Colonies since the early 1600s and can be understood by the statutes that address them. So the people in the American colonies from the early 1600s up to the War of Independence knew exactly what the “militia” were as they were institutions that prescribed social duties according to law- known as militia statutes. Every Founding Father was well aware of what the “militia” were as they themselves were required to perform their militia service according to law. Failure to perform those militia duties would result in a “fine” as defined by the law. Anyone who sought to be excused from militia service would be required, by law, to pay an “exemption” fee as these were self financing organizations. Militia structures were “well regulated” (defined according to statute). One cannot intelligibly understand the 2nd Amendment, or any of the militia clauses without understanding the historical principles of “the Militia of the several States”. Learn more

    • D. Zortea

      To ‘bear arms’ is exactly that. Wherever, whenever, you wish. Did the Founders simply put them away? Or were they always armed? I understand the country is not nearly as ‘wild’ as it was then, although, in some cases, now it is even worse. Why wouldn’t I be able to defend myself AT ALL TIMES?

  • Connor Davenport

    I bet this guy voted for Obama just saying. Also Stevens if that was the case than why did the founders not enforce their own law?

  • Susan

    Imagine, such an irrational “Justice” who is devoid of “Reason” which is a requirement for ALL “Just” Laws, which guarantee (unalienable) Natural Rights to EVERY INDIVIDUAL.

    Now, we have Rule of Man—unconstitutional……We need to return to CONSTITUTIONAL LAWS which are Reasoned and never promote Vice (Justice is the Queen of Virtue and can ONLY promote Public Virtue (Montesquieu states Public Virtue is necessary for Free Republics).

    Promotion of “Fear and Vice and hate” is a Marxist takeover (necessary for totalitarian governments) of our Jurisprudence System which REMOVES REASON AND INDIVIDUAL NATURAL RIGHTS (unalienable–even in the womb)—a Stalin “Justice” System. Promoting Vice is unconstitutional and “unjust” laws.

    “Rule of Law” means there are “Higher Laws” than man-made-up irrational cr(ppola.

  • Anonymous

    This guy is a walking example of why we should not change the Constitution. If we have a Constitution that can be changed by the whim of a few, we have no Constitution at all.

    • BlueMN

      I’ll let Wikipedia explain it to you: “In the legal system of the United States, the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of federal constitutional law, although it may only act within the context of a case in which it has jurisdiction.”

      That is the way it was set up by the Founding Fathers from the beginning.

      • Anonymous

        I can’t help but notice that you quoted Wikipedia and not the actual Constitution. I hope you realize how intellectually lazy and uninformed that makes you seem.

        • BlueMN

          Too bad you are so uniformed yourself that this was the best rebuttal you could come up with.

      • Anonymous

        You should note that even in the passage you quoted from Wikipedia it use the word “interpreter” in reference to the role of the supreme court. That implies the supreme court compares a particular law to the provisions delineated within the constitution to determine if the law violates the meaning or intent of any of those provisions. It does *not* mean the supreme court is tasked with rewriting the constitution (or, even, any laws it deems violate the constitution). There is a very clear amendment process outlined within the constitution and it doesn’t include the supreme court.

        In fact, the supreme court’s role as interpreter of the constitution isn’t even explicitly stated in the constitution. Although the founders assumed the supreme court would undertake the function of judicial review (chiefly Madison and Hamilton in the Federalist Papers), it wasn’t until the Court’s ruling in Marbury v. Madison in 1803 that this precedent was officially and firmly established.

        Justice Stevens certainly has the right to voice his opinion and the fact he’s a former supreme justice may, in some people’s minds, lend his opinion more weight than that of an average citizen. But, in terms of the actual amendment process, neither he nor any other justice — active or not — has any greater authority to change the constitution than do you or I.

        • D. Zortea

          “It does *not* mean the supreme court is tasked with rewriting the constitution (or, even, any laws it deems violate the constitution).”

          Precisely why oblameOscare, is UN-CONSTITUTIONAL!

        • BlueMN

          They cannot “rewrite” it, correct. But they can and do “interpret” sometimes vague wording in the Constitution and that can differ from others interpretation of it.

          • Anonymous

            The article (and the subsequent comment to which responded), however, was about Justice Stevens’ statement in which he proposed rewriting parts of the Constitution. This wasn’t a matter of Stevens interpreting “vague” language; it was an example of judicial activism of the worst sort because it didn’t merely modify a new law to make it compliant with the constitution (as did Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion in the Obamacare case, which interpreted the individual mandate penalty as a tax in order to find it constitutional). Justice Stevens’ proposal would fundamentally change the Founders’ intent in regard to one of our basic, natural rights. It would replace this right with one man’s opinion of what the Founders *should* have guaranteed when they wrote the second amendment.

            What’s most interesting to me it’s that Stevens’ proposed doesn’t really clarify anything. He (erroneously) presumes that by adding those five words he’s somehow limited the second amendment by excluding individual, ordinary citizens from its provisions. But what about those groups of gun owners who self-identify (or are labeled by the federal government) as militia? Seems like Stevens’ proposal would afford second amendment protection only to those groups, which the rhetoric from the current administration would have us belief are more dangerous than the most fervent jihadist. I can see a huge surge in the number of such militia should we ever ratify Justice Stevens’ proposed change.

          • BlueMN

            He was talking about rewriting 6 amendments and having them ratified, not sneaking into the National Archives with some white out and a pen. Not even Beck and the Blaze are spinning it that way.

            JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re asking to amend the Constitution six different ways. How practical is that?

            FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, it certainly would take time to do that job completely, but there’s no reason why — one or two amount amendments might be adopted before the others.

            And I think the issues in each of the ones I discussed are sufficiently important that it’s worth spending time debating them and thinking about it.

          • Anonymous

            Nor was I spinning it that way. I was pointing out the flaws in your original response to Cats in which *you* were spinning it that way.

            To refresh your memory, here’s what you wrote, in which you mistakenly infer from Wikipedia’s description of the supreme court’s role within our legal system that it includes the ability to amend the constitution:

            “I’ll let Wikipedia explain it to you: ‘In the legal system of the United States, the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of federal constitutional law, although it may only act within the context of a case in which it has jurisdiction.’

            That is the way it was set up by the Founding Fathers from the beginning.”

            Glad to see you’ve finally caught up by demonstrating an understanding of the actual amendment process.

          • BlueMN

            Incorrect. Neither my position nor understanding had changed at all. I never said the Supreme Court could “amend” the Constitution, and neither did Wikipedia.

  • Deckard426

    Any part of the Constitution that forbids former Justices from being lynched needs to be amended.

  • Michael Doyle

    There is nothing worse than an educated idiot, especially one that has been a Supreme Court Justice. This is the main reason why all Justices should be non- political. I would suggest that anyone who is educated and has any understanding of history that wants to disarm the American public is just plain treasonous. I will not ever give up my Second Amendment rights as I understand them today. I firmly believe I have a lot of company, therefore, any attempts to mess with the Constitution
    could get messy.

    • justathinker

      POORLY educated idiot. He’s obviously never read anything written by the founders who wrote The Constitution.

      • Anonymous

        As my brother says, “It is a shame that some people are educated beyond their intelligence.” True of Supreme Court justices and many national leaders.

    • Pamela Brock

      If we don’t have a lot of company, company that is willing to ACT, we are lost

  • M. N.

    Seriously, these guys weren’t put in office to challenge the constitution, they were put there to ensure it’s upheld. Fire them for treason against the people, life-time appointment or not, this is a crime against the people.

    • Anonymous

      Um, read a little more carefully. He is retired – no need to fire him he already is “fired”.

      • D. Zortea

        Um, I believe he was including the current dribble in the SCOTUS!

  • Populist democrat

    “Glenn believes you will come to understand that the amendments were in fact centered on the rights of the individual.”

    OK then, Mr. Beck; let’s hear you speak out against corporate rights, rights that the SCOTUS (not God) has granted corporations and unions.

    I doubt Mr. Beck will be that consistent. He rarely is.

    • authemis

      Your answer exists within the 1st dictionary definition. (

      1. an association of individuals, created by law or under authority of law, having a continuous existence independent of the existences of its members, and powers and liabilities distinct from those of its members.
      2. the group of principal officials of a borough or other municipal division in England.
      3. any group of persons united or regarded as united in one body.
      4. Informal. a paunch; potbelly.
      Just because a group of individuals form a legal agreement to work together to obtain a common goal, does not change the fact that they are individuals and maintain their rights.

      • ThorsteinVeblen2012

        A corporation provides a veil of immunity from legal recourse.

        A corporation can sell you a product that causes your entire family to die but the people who own the corporation and it’s officers are not liable.

        Corporations were never intended to be covered by the 14th Amendment but our corrupt legal system allowed it.

        • Populist democrat

          Correct. Their Court-granted rights must be reversed if we’re to become a government of, by and for the people rather than a corporate-state.

          • Anonymous

            I’m Conservative, but my fellow Democrat American, take your argument to the ballot box. If it’s a good idea, people will latch on. If you can rouse enough people out of their apathy towards corporations, you’ll get what you need Komrade.

        • Anonymous

          If you don’t like corporations…fine. But if a truck driver tips a truck full of electronics, the corporation will cover the cost and the driver doesn’t have to pay for the damages out of his next thousand paychecks.

          When people die from a bad consumer product, a civil action is appropriate, not a murder trial.

        • D. Zortea

          Then, by your logic, neither can unions!

      • Populist democrat

        You are confused. I’m not writing about the individuals in a corporations; I’m writing about the legal entities themselves. Corporations are not individuals.

        • Anonymous

          Unions have been granted special ‘rights’ that have nothing to do with protecting their members. They have used these ‘rights’ to promote a political agenda with which many of their members disagree. Any arguments against corporations also applies to Unions.
          Corporations do not run in bus loads of people to stage fake protests, not do they go to peoples houses in order to terrorize them. The Unions have done this, yet apologists look the other way.


    Paraphrasing, LBJ said “my appointment of Stevens to the SC was one my biggest mistakes.”

    • BlueMN

      He was appointed by Gerald Ford.

  • Swed.

    All the Justices that have been trying to subvert the Constitution for the past decades need to be tried for treason and executed, add to the list all leftists college professors that do the same. It is still a corrupt and treasonous act to subvert the Constitution.

    Time to give Washington DC and enema.

    • Anonymous

      But we keep voting the same old traitors in, yes, even the Republicans. What does it say about our society when the only men who can win an election are the same old Progressive sell outs? The problem runs a little deeper than just the Leftists. The are just the ones in power, but not the only corrupt ones. The entire character of this nation is dysfunctional.

  • jesusknight

    THIS is why we should not have a Con-Con anytime soon… too many people with power that will change what does NOT need to be changed right now! We WILL lose all our rights if we do it now.

  • Elena

    It was very much abt self-defense! Most of these men had also seen the French & Indian Wars personally. Those living on the western edges of the new nation were under constant threat fm hostile Indians.

  • Tony

    Yeah, sooooo… let’s let the gummint have them, until we are oppressed beyond recognition, then they will give them to us when we want to form a “militia”. Yeah…. grrrrrrrrrrrreat idea, there, Sparky.

  • The Blue Tail Gadfly

    And yet Glenn Beck supports an Article V Convention that would give these guys the opportunity to fundamentally alter or draft an entirely new constitution. Like Mark Levin’s “liberty” amendments would do.

    You can read more about that here:

    Conservatives cannot even control a Republican Convention, to assert that “we” can control a Constitutional Convention or nothing will happen is is pure baloney.

  • Anonymous

    By making these claims, he proves how fully he is out of touch with the historical rulings of the supreme court, which have repeatedly held that the right to keep and bear arms is not limited to state sanctioned groups, but rather an individual right that supersedes the state’s wish to control access to weapons. In fact, if the second amendment is only a collective right belonging only to the state, then the same applies to the 1st amendment and 4th amendment individual protections equally.

    There are very few people who would argue that these rights only apply when granted and regulated by the state. Obviously, there are plenty of leftists who very much would like to classify any oppositional speech or thought to their own as illegal under the guise of “hate speech”. State owned institutions of higher education and other government entities (think the Bundy ranch incident) now very much believe that they have the right to suppress free speech by corralling individuals in “free speech” zones far from the audience to whom they would address their words.

    Historically, even liberal leaning supreme courts have confirmed the right to keep and bear arms as an individual right, not that of the collective. Yet, constantly leftist, revisionist members of the judiciary strive to remove that right or limit it to the point of meaninglessness. There is absolutely no evidence backing up the hysteria of the left on this issue. Yet, constantly we hear that in order for individuals to be safe from violence, it is necessary to disarm individuals.

    Each one of the leftist radicals in our government who demand that we, as ordinary citizens, sacrifice our individual rights to protect ourselves is protected by armed guards. If they truly believe that there is no need for individuals to protect themselves, then I would challenge them to hold themselves to those same expectations and give up their armed guards. After all, disarmament communicates “peacefulness” to criminals bent on violence and decreases violent incidents because the criminals face no threat from the public and then violence will abate. If this is not about control, then they should be more than willing give up the weapons that protect them…or are they simply more important than the rest of us?

  • Truth, Justice & AMERICAN Way

    A wise man once told me “Never be so open-minded that your brains fall out”…NOW we know WHY he retired

  • TJB

    We have a process for this …..

  • Constitutional Militia

    The Constitution serially recognizes “the Militia of the several States” (See: Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 15 and 16, Article 2, Section 2, Amendment 2 and 5). And the Constitution uses more words addressing Congress’s duty with respect to the “militia” than to the “army” and “navy”. Additionally, the only thing the Constitution declares as “necessary” for the security of our liberties and freedoms, “a free State”, is the “militia”. Additionally, the “militia” are 1 of 6 permanent governmental institutions established in the Constitution: STATES • UNITED STATES • CONGRESS • PRESIDENT • SUPREME COURT • MILITIA. One does not have to be a Supreme Court Justice to understand this, as evidenced by the fact that the supreme “Law of the Land”t was authored and expected to be interpreted by “We the people”. Any conversation regarding the 2nd Amendment can never be coherent if one does not address the only thing the Constitution declares with crystal clarity is “necessary to the security of a free State”.

    • Jim

      Thomas Jefferson also stated on the Second Ammendment that “The Purpose of the Second Ammendment is not for the People to protect the Government, rather, to protect the People from a Tyrannical Government!”

      Meaning to keep the Government from getting out of control!

  • Anonymous

    I do not want the Constitution changed!

    • BlueMN

      The US Constitution has been changed, or “amended,” 27 times since 1789.

      • Anonymous

        Not lately. Instead, through clever word manipulation and re-definiton, we have a series of Supreme Court “opinions” that bypasses the (intentionally difficult) Amendment process altogether.

        • BlueMN

          Last amendment was ratified in 1992, four in the last 50 years.

  • Pamela Brock

    Glenn, you can be so annoying, but you are, as usual, right on here

  • V the K

    There’s been a lot of attention paid to his proposal to gut the Second Amendment; I am curious what other rights he would like to infringe.

  • Kay

    ” the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the militia shall not be infringed.” No locking weapons up on military bases then. Soldiers should be able to carry.

  • fire lion

    We gotta keep the second amendment safe for people like dunn so he can claim self defense while shooting at a car moving away from him.

    If a brown person scares you! shoot and stand your ground.

    • Equis

      Really, get a grip…

  • Anonymous

    He about to kick the bucket and he wants to put all of us in the same boat.

  • landofaahs

    It’s a good thing Steven’s is retired being he has gone idiot and no longer has a clue in his elderly confused state about what liberty means. How does an idiot like that distinguish between liberty and slavery when liberalism/progressivism is all about moving the Plantation of slavery ever more to DC. It is very easy to understand liberty. It means you have a right to live and raise your family according to your wishes and nobody else’s and you give that right to others because you know that if you don’t, then your rights are not secured either. It’s so simple to understand that you make your own decisions and take the consequences of those decisions. What is wrong with the insecure progressives that they are afraid to experience true liberty?

  • Anonymous

    Is this man senile?

    • ken.

      liberalism is a mental disease.

  • ken.

    politics don’t belong in the constitution, it’s the constitution that belongs in politics.

  • Anonymous

    That’s why folks who are old, probably 80 yrs or older should not serve in any legislature or be on any bench.Consulting is fine,but being in decision making positions is really dangerous.

  • smokehill

    Amazing — someone that well-educated, but he’s never read the Federalist Papers, or anything else written by the Founding Fathers.

    Even a quick Google search would have brought him a number of direct quotes from Jefferson & the rest regarding the REAL reasoning behind the Second Amendment.

    I didn’t even bother to read his proposals on the other Amendments. The man is a blithering idiot with no knowledge of history.

    It’s truly scary that someone this deranged can actually be picked as a judge. But it does explain some of the ridiculous decision that they inflict on us.

  • Oliver Ales

    Since our minds develop along with the civilization in which we grow up, we are naturally unfamiliar with the unseen history of the customs and traditions we practice.

  • greg

    “If the taxes get to high maybe you should revolt”. Glenn Becky fake, Phony, sellout, you look like some extra from the eyes wide shut CFR phedophile groupie Alex Jones fan for 10 years Vote for candidate CFR progressive or CFR conservative Listen to Glenn Beck CFR conservative or MSNBC CFR progressive

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