Gun Control

  • May 18, 2015
    BookTalk
    Guns Across America
    Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights
    By: 
    Robert J. Spitzer

    by Robert J. Spitzer. He is the Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at SUNY Cortland. Spitzer is the author most recently of Guns Across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights, published by Oxford University Press.

    The contemporary American gun debate has been cast as a battle between two opposing, mutually exclusive principles: gun laws and gun rights. The struggle between these two is invariably portrayed as a zero-sum game—that the gain of one is a loss for the other. Yet our own history tells a different story, one that contains at least two important lessons. The first is that, throughout most of American history, gun rights and gun laws existed hand in hand. The second is that, in many respects, guns were more heavily regulated in our country’s first 300 years than in the last thirty years.

    While gun ownership is as old as America, so are gun laws. Early gun laws covered every imaginable type of regulation, even including registration and outright gun bans. In fact, the first “gun grabbers” were not 1960’s Chablis-drinking liberals, but rum-guzzling pioneers of the 1600s. Early gun laws restricted gun ownership and possession to Native Americans, slaves, indentured servants, vagrants, non-Protestants, those who refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the government, felons, foreigners and numerous recreational restrictions. Early laws also regulated the manufacture, inspection, and sale of firearms, as well as gun storage and discharge restrictions. Others prohibited not only the firing of firearms in or near towns, but firing after dark, on Sundays, in public places, near roads and bridges or while under the influence of alcohol.

    Among the earliest and most prolific laws were those restricting or barring the carrying of concealed weapons (these restrictions typically applied to pistols as well as certain types of knives). As early as 1686, New Jersey barred the wearing of concealable weapons in public because, according to the law, “it induced great Fear and Quarrels.” In 1837, Georgia made it illegal “to sell. . .or to keep or have about their persons” pistols or other listed weapons. The restriction applied both to merchants and private citizens, and its stated purpose was “to guard and protect the citizens of this State against the unwarrantable and too prevalent use of deadly weapons.” By the end of the 18th century, four states had enacted gun carry restrictions. In the 19th century, 37 states did so and another four states followed suit in the early 20th century.

  • December 3, 2014

    by Christopher Durocher.

    Six years ago, in Heller v. District of Columbia, a divided Supreme Court held for the first time that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual right to bear arms. This decision called into question the viability of gun-safety regulations across the country, including in high-crime urban areas in which the need to address gun violence is particularly acute.  Just this past July, a federal district court judge in DC concluded, “In light of Heller [and its] progeny, there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny.” It’s not so clear, however, that Supreme Court precedent or the Second Amendment, itself, require the rejection of this and other gun-safety regulations.

    In the ACS Issue Brief “The Constitutional Case for Limiting Public Carry,” Professor Lawrence Rosenthal of Chapman University Fowler School of Law examines the Second Amendment’s historical context and concludes that, even accepting an originalist reading that the Constitution protects an individual’s right to bear arms, the drafters of the Second Amendment anticipated the need for and value of gun-safety regulations. Far from proscribing regulation of firearms, the drafters understood that regulation was appropriate, including the types of restrictions on open and concealed public carry that cities throughout the United States have adopted.

  • May 29, 2014

    by Charles Withers

    In its decision in Hall v. Florida, the Supreme Court replaced the controversial term “mental retardation” with "intellectual disability" to describe someone with limited mental functioning. Tony Mauro at Legal Times notes how advocates for those with intellectual disabilities are praising the Court for abandoning the controversial term.

    In an op-ed for The New York Times, Joe Nocera highlights the recent killing spree by Elliot Rodger, whose horrific actions left numerous victims injured and six others killed. In his article, Nocera examines Michael Waldman’s The Second Amendment: A Biography and the growing inclination to elevate an individual’s right to bear arms over the public good.

    ACS board member Linda Greenhouse writes in a The New York Times op-ed that polarization is not the only problem facing the Robert’s Court, but also “that it’s too often simply wrong.” 

    At Balkinization, Joey Fishkin and Willy Forbath provide an abstract for The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution.

  • May 16, 2014
     
    An unclassified report released Wednesday by the departments of Justice and Defense assured  members of Congress that “if Guantánamo Bay detainees were relocated to a prison inside the United States, it is unlikely that a court would order their release onto domestic soil.” Charlie Savage at The New York Times discusses how the report “addresses concerns over President Obama’s plan to close the controversial prison.
     
    Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg upheld Washington, D.C.’s strong post-Heller gun regulations, finding that they “pass constitutional scrutiny.” Ann E. Marimow at The Washington Post has the story.
     
    At The Week, Matt Bruenig argues in favor of term-limiting Supreme Court justices. In his article, Bruenig supports a proposal that would enable Supreme Court judges to serve single, staggered 18-year terms.
     
    Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down several sections of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law. At Concurring Opinions, Ronald K.L. Collins breaks down Wisconsin Right to Life v. Barland
  • March 18, 2014
    Students from Yale Law School wrote a letter admonishing Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) for voting against the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Sen. Coons voted against Adegbile because he oversaw an appeals process for a convicted murderer while at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Ryan J. Reilly at The Huffington Post reports on the letter.
     
    On Monday, Tarek Mehanna’s lawyer asked the Supreme Court to review his client’s seventeen-year imprisonment by a Boston jury for “providing material support to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.” Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog notes the First Amendment implications of Mehanna’s conviction.
     
    Anticipation is growing as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral argument for Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. In an article for Slate, Adam Winkler—Faculty Advisor for the UCLA School of Law ACS Student Chapter—explains why corporations should have the rights of “legal personhood that are essential to their operations” and why “Hobby Lobby should lose.”
     
    Kirk Siegler at NPR discusses why “California is shaping up to be the next major battleground over the Second Amendment.”
     
    Celebrating Women’s History Month, Cortelyou Kenney at Womenstake discusses the “gains women have made in terms of their representation on the federal judiciary … under the Obama administration.”