Following is a summary of a discussion on LinkedIn discussing the NYT Op-ed submitted by retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens: John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment , March 27, 2018.
Does the discussion reinforce the need for a new approach to help resolve controversial issues?
The debate focuses on the “meaning” and interpretation of the second amendment from a legal perspective. A different approach is looking at the issue not from an original meaning but from the original intent.
The aim of the design of the U.S. political system was to form “a more perfect” union (original intent). Working towards this aim from a Deming perspective would equate to taking action that results in a situation where everyone gains, or at least, are not any worse off in the long-term.
The challenge becomes to identify the feedback people need to assess if a change makes things better or worse. Deming suggests looking at things from four perspectives: Psychology (motivation), Systems (action) Variation (feedback), and Knowledge (learning).
Psychology is the study of human behavior and what motivated it. For many, guns in America are an integral part of our history, culture, identity, strength, sense of security, and freedom. Guns are also a symbol. Many of the comments on the post reflect this perspective.
There is also the philosophic perspective regarding the nature of man – all humans have the capability of being good and evil which reinforces an individual’s desire for self-defense and self-reliance. And further, some have more confidence in government’s ability to protect them than do others. For many, the 2nd amendment is an insurance policy – you may never need it, but nice to have – just in case.
A System includes laws and interpretation of the laws. I can’t add much to the current debate on the 2nd amendment. I think both sides have goods arguments. Unfortunately, the debate will be never ending depending on who has the most votes at the time. Conservative will vote one way and liberals the other, e.g., zero-sum that indicates a stable (predictable) system.
Variation is the gap between the ideal situation (more perfect) and actual. From an “originalist” position, repealing the 2nd Amendment is tampering – which makes things worse. From a “living document” perspective, repeal is an improvement.
The variation principle also provides a new standard that can be applied for assessing the efficacy of gun control laws. It also provides a new perspective on looking at all the factors that contribute to unnatural deaths from crime, accidents, disease, addictions, war, et.al. What are the trends? What are the priorities for improvement? What is working? What is not?
Knowledge. What are we learning? The responses to the post identify individual views and passion on the topic. In regard to repeal, whoever has the most votes will “win.” Even if the votes are there to repeal, many will not accept any ruling that conflicts with their belief that they have right to keep and bear arms. The U.S. is not Australia where the population volunteered to turn in their guns.
A way-ahead? Start with the variation principle. Get agreement on the methodology and data e.g., the facts regarding deaths due to the misuse of guns. To provide context, I would also include comparisons with other deaths by other causes. Any successful long-term solution will need to acknowledge and address the cultural aspects (psychology) that are an inherent part of the 2nd amendment.
- Here is a link to the dissenting opinion on Heller: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-290.ZD.html
- Here is a rather ivory-tower but nonetheless interesting read on originalism: https://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1833&context=facpub
- And here is an examination of Stevens’ judicial philosophy: https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1123&context=nulr
- Why the anti-tyranny case for the 2nd Amendment shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly
- Why Gun Culture Is So Strong in Rural America By ROBERT LEONARD March 16, 2018, NYT. After a mass shooting, where you might blame guns, rural conservatives don’t. They blame the shooter.
- The Founding Fathers Explain The Second Amendment — This Says it ALL. By Brian Thomas June 20, 2016
Who Needs a Gun? by Gary Gutting, NYT, The Stone