ACSBlog

  • 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.

  • May 18, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    The Supreme Court issued its decisions today for Henderson v. United States, ruling that when a person is convicted of a felony, a court can transfer his guns to a third party, and City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan among others.

    Kenneth Jost argues at Jost on Justice that the decision in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar “should not be dismissed as inconsequential because the alternative would have made judicial elections much worse than they already are.”

    In The New York Times, William Baude suggests that the Supreme Court’s decision to grant review in Spokeo v. Robins may postpone its ruling in Zivotofsky v. Kerry.

    At Salon, Paul Campos considers the ruling in Boston Marathon bombing trial and argues that the United States has not thought enough about the death penalty.

    Krishnadev Calamur writes for NPR about Judy Clarke, one of the defense attorneys for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and an outspoken opponent of the death penalty.

    In a new episode of Slate’s Amicus podcast, Dahlia Lithwick discusses the news that Natalie Portman will portray Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an upcoming film.

  • May 15, 2015

    by Nanya Springer

    A week after its release, ACS President Caroline Fredrickson’s book, Under the Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run Over, is receiving accolades for its examination of the legal and cultural obstacles faced by women in the workplace, and it is resonating with women who cannot advance at work by simply “leaning in,” or “opting out.”

    Linda Tirado of Elle explains, “Someone once asked me what I thought about ‘lean-in feminism.’ I told her that it was meant for wealthy women, not for women like me. Work, as I've always understood it, isn't a gentle, swaying sort of thing. It's not full of opportunities for musing on work/life-balance. It's where you go, when they let you, to make whatever money they'll give you in exchange for your labor.” 

    These sentiments are echoed by Sheila Bapat at Feministing, who writes, “Fredrickson takes ownership of the problematic ‘lean in’ and ‘having it all’ frameworks and the class chasms they reveal,” adding that the book “applies both data and personal narratives to show that most women in the US are working in low-wage, unpredictable, insecure, and exploitative environments ― even though many women are the sole breadwinners for their families.”

    For more insight into the book and its analysis of how today’s labor laws exclude women workers, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination, take a look at the resources below.

    Financial Exploitation of Women in the Workplace Is the Canary in the Coal Mine, Truthout

    Congress’ Despicable War on Working Women: How Our Warped Laws Perpetuate Discrimination, Salon

    Book review, Sheila Bapat, Feministing

    Book review, Linda Tirado, Elle Magazine

    Book review, Samantha Michaels, Mother Jones

    Book review, Kirkus

    Lean In or Opt-Out? Or How About We Change the Law?, The WorkLife Hub (podcast)

    Interview, Uprising with Sonali (video)

    Interview, Thom Hartmann Program (video)

    Economic Policy Institute panel discussion, Are Working Women Leaning In or Being Run Over? (video)

    And visit the Under The Bus Facebook page to join in the discussion.

    [Image created by Elle]

     

  • May 15, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    Matthew Menendez considers at the blog for the Brennan Center for Justice what happens with judicial elections after the ruling in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar.

    At The Atlantic, Danah Boyd and Alex Rosenblat argue that the enthusiasm for police-worn body cameras is premature.

    Elias Isquith considers at Salon how the way the public discusses crime may make the problem worse.

    Suzy Khimm writes in The New Republic that child care is an economic problem that the government could help fix with subsidizes for American families.

    The New York Times Editorial Board explains how a House bill that would ban virtually all abortions 20 weeks or more after fertilization is based on bogus arguments.

  • May 15, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    This week the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a letter from Senator Pat Toomey that insists he is not to blame for the delays on the consideration of District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. But it seems clear that the Senator has taken few steps to get the Judiciary Committee to take up Restrepo’s nomination, as the Text & History Blog of the Constitutional Accountability Center explains.

    Few are buying Toomey’s assertion that he is not delaying action on Restrepo’s nomination. The vacancy that Restrepo would fill is currently a judicial emergency, but The Huffington Post reports that it remains unclear when he will get a hearing.

    In other news, a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit may finally have a nominee after sitting vacant for more than five years. As the Constitutional Accountability Center reports, Senator Tammy Baldwin submitted the names of eight possible candidates to the White House this week.

    There are currently 56 vacancies, and 24 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 17 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.