'This Week' Transcript: The Battle for the Constitution

AMANPOUR: Let me just ask also, because obviously, so much has changed and it's obvious to say that, but in 200 years -- could the framers have ever imagined assault weapons or violent video games or whatever, when it was written, not in stone, on parchment -- what about for instance this very contentious Second Amendment, which is also the hot potato in today's political world? It was for regulated militias, but also it was also pre -- it was in the time of the musket.

STENGEL: It was. In fact, George Washington, I believe in 1791, signed a bill asking Americans to buy muskets and buy ammunition. I think the Second Amendment is one of those issues where the way it's been interpreted over 200 years affects exactly the way it is now.

I don't know that anybody really knows the exact meaning of the Second Amendment, in terms of what is absolutely -- what the clear intent of the framers was. In fact, I would argue that whatever that was, it's been adapted to this new world that we're living in now. So if we're talking about the Second Amendment or we're talking about the War Powers Act, George Washington would not have known what to do about whether drone warfare qualifies as an act of military engagement and therefore engages the War Powers Act. The War Powers Act itself may be unconstitutional. It has never been tested in the Supreme Court.

WILL: In the first decade of the 21st century, that 18th century amendment, Second Amendment, pertaining to bearing arms, was settled in this sense -- the Supreme Court finally said, based on extraordinary scholarship on both sides, that it does protect an individual right, not the collective right of militias.

The founding fathers didn't know anything about telephones, but they did say in the fourth Amendment that we should be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the court applying the values of the framers, applied that to wiretaps, and a whole set of law has evolved around that. So the fact that the framers didn't envision a particular technology by no means disqualifies what they wrote from being applied to modern conditions.

DYSON: See, here we are agreeing, finally.

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: Because the point is that they couldn't have anticipated things that they didn't know existed. So as a result of that, it leaves -- it's left up to us to interpret what they meant.

See, I think that the Constitution is like the Bible. And some Christians' relationship to the Bible. Some people are literalists, so they think every I must be dotted, every T must be crossed, and they believe in the literal interpretation of the word. Some are more liberal and progressive in thinking that this is a suggestion about the moral content of one's identity, that one must not adhere strictly to that. But we, in light of those constitutional values, can interpret them and apply them in ways that I think are edifying, and we have to make arguments about that. We can't assume we know the one-to-one correlation between the founding fathers, the Constitution and what we do today.

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