Transcript for 'This Week': John Paul Stevens
And justice Stevens is out with a new book this Tuesday, called six amendments. It's causing a bit of firestorm. For changing our founding document. He sat down with George stephanopoulos. You have had a reputation on the bench as a moderate for so many years, and I read this book where you're calling for six amendments to the constitution, I wonder, have you become a radical? No, I think every one of my proposals is a moderate proposal. Moderate proposal? Think each of them -- perhaps not. Reporter: Justice Stevens' most controversial idea adding five words to the second amendment. Here's how it would change. The right of the people to keep and bear arms when serving in the militia should not be infringed. I think that's probably right. But, I think that's what should be the rule that it should be legislatures that draws the line on what's permissible. You think that's because clearly, this is what was intended? I do think that that was intended. Because there was a fear among the originals, that the federal government would be so strong that might destroy the state militias. It would prevent arguments being made that congress doesn't have the power to do what's best in the public's interest. If the congress passed a ban on individual gun ownership. That would constitutional under your amendment? That's right. Reporter: Stevens targets -- to preserve political power. Pretty subjective. It's subjective, but it's easily recognizable if you look at what it produces. It makes me think of that famous observation about obscenity, you know it when you see it. Yes. You also expressed great optimism in your book that eventually all of these will pass? I really believe that. I was talking to a close friend of mine on the way in here, sort of laughing out loud at this idea, like, they would have almost no chance in today's political system. Well, perhaps today, there might be no chance for certainly the second amendment proposal. But the difficulty of the process shouldn't foreclose an attempt. Reporter: When justice Stevens retired in 2010, he was replaced by Elana Kagan. A solid vote on the court's liberal bloc. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg is resisting calls from liberals who want her to step down this year. Is that something that you think justices should consider as they're making that decision? Well, I didn't consider it. You didn't? Lot of people think you did, no politics at all in your decision? My decision wasn't made for any political reason whatsoever, it was the concern about my own health. Something that justices should take into account? I think so. I think it's an appropriate thing to think about, your successor not only in this job, I just finished Reading the book by former secretary Yates, he thought a lot about his successor. You're interested in the job and the kind of work that's done, you have to have an interest in who's going to fill your shoes. If she asked for your advice? I would say, she doesn't need my advice. She really doesn't. Very wise. It's interesting, because she asked my advice when she became the senior associate justice. And I gave her the same answer. One final question, I was so struck by a letter that president Ford wrote before he died in 2005, where he said, his entire tenure as president judged by the selection of you to the supreme court. He was so proud of that choice, and as you look back on your more than 40 years on the bench, how do you judge your own contribution? How do I judge my own? Well, it's awfully hard. It's a series of individual important events. Some are terribly disappointing and some are gratifying. You mix them altogether, it's really hard to pass judgment on the entirety, but I did the best I could. I didn't do well enough on many occasions. Well, I think everyone agreed you did your best. Justice Stevens, thank you for your time. Our thanks to George. Check out an excerpt of justice Stevens' book "Six amendments". At abcnews.com/thisweek. We're back now with the
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