Did Justice Burger Call Gun Lobby’s Take on 2nd Amendment a Fraud on the American Public?

Warren Burger was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Richard Nixon in 1969.

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Claim

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger once said, “The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American people by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

Rating

Correct Attribution
Correct Attribution
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Context

While Burger did indeed utter these words, viral memes combine two different quotes from him that were spoken (or written) at different times.

Fact Check

In the days following a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two adults dead, a quote from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger started circulating on social media. Burger, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1969 by then-President Richard Nixon and retired in 1986, supposedly said:

The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies – the militia – would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.

Person, Human, Head

While these words truly originated with the conservative justice, the above-displayed meme cobbles together three different passages that Burger either wrote or spoke at different times.

The first part of this meme — “The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have seen in my lifetime” — comes from an interview Burger gave to PBS News in 1991.

The second part of this meme — “the real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies, the militia, would be maintained for the defense of the state” — and the third part — “The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires” — comes from an articles Burger wrote for The Associated Press about the Bill of Rights in 1991.

11 Dec 1991, Wed Record Searchlight (Redding, California) Newspapers.com

Th “real purpose” quote can be seen in the article’s fifth paragraph. The “very language” portion comes a two paragraphs later.


Sources:

Biskupic, Joan. “Guns: A Second (Amendment) Look.” Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/supcourt/stories/courtguns051095.htm. Accessed 26 May 2022.

Burger, Warren. “Government Has Right to Regulate Guns.” Associated Press, 11 Dec. 1991, p. 13. newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/102574603/record-searchlight/.

How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment | Brennan Center for Justice. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/how-nra-rewrote-second-amendment. Accessed 26 May 2022.

Second Amendment Does Not Guarantee the Right To Own a Gun (From Gun Control, P 99-102, 1992, Charles P Cozic, Ed. — See NCJ-160164) | Office of Justice Programs. https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/second-amendment-does-not-guarantee-right-own-gun-gun-control-p-99. Accessed 26 May 2022.

“Warren Burger and NRA: Gun Lobby’s Big Fraud on Second Amendment.” The Milwaukee Independent, 4 Oct. 2017, http://www.milwaukeeindependent.com/syndicated/warren-burger-and-nra-gun-lobbys-big-fraud-on-second-amendment/.