Excerpts From Friend-of-Court Briefs

The D.C. gun case exposes strange bedfellows and internal rifts in the administration.


• A group of criminologists (.pdf):

"Handgun prohibition is simply not effective to produce good and valuable effects in society. Handgun prohibitions such as those enacted by the city council of the District of Columbia appear to be effective only at removing from law-abiding citizens the best means of protecting themselves, their loved ones and others from violent criminals. The District's 30-year social experiment with handgun prohibition has, if anything, illustrated this sad fact. Rather than becoming safer, our Nation's Capital has unfortunately become known as the 'murder capital' of the United States, one of the most violent cities in the country. In light of the District's gun prohibitions, there is little that the residents can realistically do but hope that they do not become victims themselves."

Excerpts from amicus briefs that side with the District of Columbia:

• American Public Health Association and other public-health groups (.pdf):

"The studies detailed below show that the risk of suicide, homicide, and accidental gun death is greater in homes with guns, and in communities with a higher prevalence of guns. Numerous studies indicate that people who have guns in their homes are at a substantially increased risk of suicide. Similarly, the presence of a gun at home increases the risk of homicide for the occupants of that home. And handguns, in particular, are responsible for the majority of all firearm homicides and suicides." • 18 district attorneys, representing San Francisco, New York, and other areas (.pdf):

"The district attorneys urge the court to consider the potentially negative, unintended and wholly unnecessary consequences of an affirming opinion. In short, an affirmance could inadvertently call into question the well settled Second Amendment principles under which countless state and local criminal firearms laws have been upheld by courts nationwide." • Liberal former officials of the U.S. Justice Department, including former Attorney General Janet Reno (.pdf):

"Amici disagree with the current position of the United States Department of Justice that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for purposes unrelated to a State's operation of a well-regulated militia. That position, which was adopted in the fall of 2001, reversed the Department's longstanding position that the Second Amendment is not implicated by firearms regulations that are designed to protect public safety and do not interfere with participation in a well-regulated militia. "Recognition of an expansive individual right to keep and bear arms for private purposes will make it more difficult for the government to defend present and future firearms laws. With gun violence continuing to plague the United States, this Court should adhere to the position it staked out nearly 70 years ago in Miller and construe the Second Amendment to protect a right to keep and bear arms only to the extent the exercise of such a right is related to the 'preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.' "

• Selected members of Congress (.pdf):

"Since Miller it has been well settled that the Second Amendment is implicated only when the desired possession or use of a weapon has a 'relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.' If the Second Amendment has any specific applications in Twenty-First Century America, it may be most appropriate for judgments about those applications to reside with the political branches, and particularly with Congress, which is expressly vested with responsibilities over the militia by Article I.16." • UC-Irvine (incoming) Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and UCLA Law Prof. Adam Winkler (.pdf):

"Should this Court hold that the Second Amendment protects an individual right apart from service in the militia, this Court should follow the consistent, longstanding federal and state constitutional practice and hold that the right to keep and bear arms is subject to reasonable regulation. Reasonableness review is appropriate because most weapons regulations are unquestionably legitimate means of enhancing public safety, reducing crime, or protecting children. Where the vast majority of regulation in an area is legitimate, this Court has held that the predicate for heightened scrutiny is absent and the judiciary should presume the constitutionality of legislation. Moreover, the text of the Second Amendment, the history of the right to bear arms in federal and state constitutional law, and federalism values all support permitting legislators substantial latitude to adopt reasonable regulations of arms.