During a 1991 interview on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, former Chief Justice Warren Burger was asked what he would change in the Bill of Rights. He called out the Second Amendment.
“If I were writing the Bill of Rights now there wouldn’t be any such thing as the Second Amendment,” Burger told the NewsHour’s Charlayne Hunter-Gault. “This has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word ‘fraud’ – on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
The interview was part of a series marking the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
He pulled out his tiny copy of the constitution and read the Second Amendment aloud, which states that “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.”
“If the militia, which was going to be the state army, was going to be well-regulated,” Burger asked, “why shouldn’t 16 and 17 and 18, or any other age, persons be regulated in the use of arms the way an automobile is regulated?”
Months before Burger’s appearance on the NewsHour, former President Ronald Reagan called on Congress to pass the Brady bill, a piece of legislation named for his press secretary who was wounded during the 1981 assassination attempt against him.
“Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns, according to Department of Justice statistics. This does not include suicides or the tens of thousands of robberies, rapes and assaults committed with handguns,” Regan wrote in a March 1991 New York Times op-ed. “This level of violence must be stopped.”
It took another two years before President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act into law.
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