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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Supreme Court's Second Amendment Decision in D.C. v. Heller May Help Fight Against Gun Violence, Brady Center Report Finds

The U.S. Supreme Court's Second Amendment decision in D.C. v. Heller may have the "unintended consequence" of helping to enact stronger gun laws, according to a report issued today by the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
While the decision gives criminal defendants a legal tool to use to potentially avoid criminal convictions or mitigate their punishments and will inspire gun lobby challenges of gun laws, it may also clear some of the wedge politics that have blocked the nation from passing sensible gun laws in the future, the report says.
The report, titled "Unintended Consequences: What The Supreme Court's Second Amendment Decision In D.C. V. Heller Means For The Future Of Gun Laws," comes four months after the Supreme Court's ruling and just a few weeks before the Court is scheduled to argue another case involving guns: specifically, the scope of the current federal law prohibiting spousal abusers from possessing firearms. It is available at http://www.bradycenter.org/xshare/pdf/heller/post-heller-white-paper.pdf.
"As the report explains, the Supreme Court has taken away the extremes of the gun debate, and left us in the reasonable middle ground of common sense proposals to reduce gun violence supported by most Americans," said Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Center. "By making it clear that law-abiding citizens have an individual right to possess guns for self-defense, the Supreme Court may have paved the way for the strong gun laws that Americans want and need to protect our communities from violent crime."
The report argues that the decision may have a positive impact on American gun policy. "The Court went out of its way to make clear that most gun laws are 'presumptively' constitutional while also putting to rest gun owners' fears of a total ban or ultimate confiscation of all firearms," its authors wrote. "By taking the extremes of the gun policy debate off the table, Heller has the potential to allow genuine progress in implementing reasonable gun restrictions, while protecting basic rights to possess firearms. The unintended consequence of Heller is that it may end up 'de-wedgeifying' one of the more divisive 'wedge' issues on the political landscape: guns. The net result of Heller would then be positive by leading to the enactment of the strong gun laws that we need -- and the vast majority of Americans want -- to protect our communities from gun violence." [Mark Godsey]

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