Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens says in his new memoir that the court’s biggest mistake during his time on the bench was a 2008 ruling declaring the Second Amendment a personal right to bear arms.
Justice Stevens, who stepped down from the bench in 2010, said he thinks the 5-4 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller not only botched the history of the Constitution, but also is bad policy that will be responsible for more shooting deaths.
“As history has demonstrated in recent years, the tragedies are multiplying one after another. And the decision of the court in Heller has contributed to that,” Justice Stevens told Time magazine.
He led the dissenting justices in arguing the Second Amendment was meant to protect state militias from being disarmed. That view failed, and the court ruled that the Second Amendment was actually a personal right to self-defense — though with some practical limits.
Justice Stevens was appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975, though by the time he retired he was a reliable part of the court’s liberal wing.
He wrote about his years on the court and his service during World War II in his new book, “The Making of a Justice: Reflections on My First 94 Years.”
Speaking to CNN, Justice Stevens praised the court’s newest member, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was confirmed last year after a confirmation battle during which he faced accusations of sexual misconduct dating back decades. Justice Kavanaugh vehemently denied any wrongdoing and said he was the victim of an “orchestrated political hit.”
Justice Stevens at the time had said it was fair to criticize the nominee for using partisan language but now says that was wrong of him.
“I think his decisions will determine how good a judge he’ll be,” Justice Stevens told CNN, adding he thinks the newcomer is doing a good job.