House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chair Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) today released a letter signed by more than 50 constitutional law experts written and organized by leading members of the American Constitution Society (ACS) and a memo commissioned by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, (LCPGV) which each highlight that laws aimed at reducing gun violence and respect for the Second Amendment are not mutually exclusive. The documents are being released in advance of today's Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the constitutionality of gun violence prevention legislation.
"As a hunter and gun owner, I believe that we should protect the Second Amendment right of law-abiding individuals to own firearms. I will never give up my guns and I will never ask law-abiding individuals without a history of dangerous mental illness to give up theirs. Not only am I personally against this, but the Constitution wouldn't allow it. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court affirmed once and for all that Americans have an individual right to keep and bear arms," said Thompson. "As a dad and grandfather, I also believe that we have a responsibility to make our schools, streets and communities safe. Constitutional experts agree: we can do both."
"Justice Scalia's opinion in the Heller case makes clear that Americans have a constitutional right to have a handgun in their homes for self-defense. And, the case makes equally clear that reasonable laws designed to keep military-style weapons off our streets and keep all guns from felons, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill are constitutional," said Arkadi Gerney, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. "The Court's opinion reflects the view of the vast majority of the American people, who agree that supporting the rights of responsible, law-abiding Americans goes hand-in-hand with doing more to fight gun crime."
ACS President Caroline Fredrickson lauded the statement as a succinct, but significant, contribution to the discussion over measures to curb gun violence. "Regardless of some of the overwrought claims emanating from those opposing any new gun regulations, this letter clearly explains why sensible and limited regulations to curb gun violence do not violate the individual right to bear arms. There is no effort afoot to shred the Second Amendment, only discussion of ways to address gun violence without violating constitutional rights."
Said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "The Supreme Court made it clear in Heller that, while the Second Amendment protects the right of law-abiding individuals to possess firearms for self-defense in the home, that right does not interfere with the ability of Congress, states and cities to enact smart gun laws. Because there is no constitutional impediment to common sense proposals aimed at reducing gun violence, such as universal background checks, banning dangerous assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and cracking down on gun traffickers,
Congress has an important opportunity right now to enact new laws that we know will save lives."
The letter, signed by more than 50 constitutional scholars, was crafted by two ACS leaders; UCLA School of Law Professor Adam Winkler and University of Chicago Law School Professor Geoffrey Stone are both longtime ACS supporters. Stone is the former chair of the ACS Board of Directors and Winkler is the adviser of the UCLA ACS student law chapter. The letter makes the case that measures being considered by national lawmakers to curb violence do not subvert the Second Amendment right to bear firearms. It goes on to argue that proposals like universal background checks, regulation of high-capacity ammunition magazines and military-style assault weapons are "clearly consistent with the Second Amendment."
The full text of the letter can be seen here.
The Center for American Progress and Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence memo finds that the many forms of firearm regulation remain constitutional, including laws to prevent firearm possession by criminals and limitations on the possession of dangerous and unusual weapons. The measures endorsed by President Obama and proposed by Congress are safely within these confines; they reflect the sort of reasonable regulation that the Supreme Court endorsed in Heller and has accepted in a host of other constitutional contexts.
The full text of the memo can be seen here.