Mr. Gura Goes to Reno

Alan Gura at the Gun Blogger RendezvousProbably the main highlight of the Gun Blogger Rendezvous IV was being able to spend some time talking with Alan Gura, the attorney who argued and won the Heller case before the Supreme Court of the United States. When I say we owe Alan Gura a lot, it’s an understatement. He put together a case, and took it forward, when a lot of folks, including me, thought it was a tremendously risky proposition. Even in the early days of Parker, you could find him on blogs making the argument for taking his case forward. It was his arguments on blogs that eventually convinced me taking Parker (later to become Heller) forward was the right thing to do. Alan gave us an overview of what convinced them the time was right — hat there was a circuit split the Court would want to resolve, and that at some point, someone is going to take a case forward. They decided it would be best to build a solid case, and go with it, which is what they did.

One thing that made me feel good is the confidence Alan displays about winning on the most serious stuff. We asked him about really everything from incorporation to assault weapons bans, and he feels Heller offers enough language to make a winning case for every one of those things. He’s currently pursuing cases challenging the California handgun roster, bans on concealed carry in Washington DC, in addition to the incorporation suits he has on the table.

He briefly went into the concealed carry issue, and basically explained what were the legal options left open to us by Heller, and by what’s traditionally been the case in American law. In the legal theory he presented, the government is permitted to regulate the manner in which someone carries a firearm, but it may not outright prohibit citizens from carrying a gun for self-protection. His goal with the DC case (Palmer) is just to get a ruling that the District of Columbia may not outright prohibit the bearing of arms. What form of law the District enacts to comply with the decision is something for another day, but the goal is to get the ruling that carrying of firearms for self-protection is covered under the Second Amendment, with the government only able to regulate the manner of carry. He seems confident that he can prevail on this issue.

The final topic we got into was what he thought the biggest threats to the Second Amendment were, and what we, as bloggers, could do about it. His response was that he did not feel that the biggest threat to the Second Amendment came from groups like the Brady Campaign, VPC, or the now defunct Second Amendment Research Center run by Saul Cornell. He believes the biggest threat to the Second Amendment comes from our own extremists and lunatics, and that the biggest way we could contribute as bloggers is in confronting that cancer within our community. Just as an example in the legal world, he brought up the example of Gary Gorski, who was the attorney who famously brought us the disastrous Silveira case, and who continues to bring bad cases forward, and recently has been screwing up concealed carry cases in California, finally culminating in Gorski calling Gura “nothing more than an officious meddler.”

The best a Second Amendment activists can really do is shrug a lot of nonsense off, but it’s a huge distraction, and you can see in the example above what potential for damage there is from supposed members of our own community. I don’t stand up to these lunatics because I like the attention, traffic or because I run out of things to talk about. I do it because in my dealings with effective people, every one of them has felt discouraged by the endless amount of pooh flung in their direction by egomaniacs and lunatics who delight in doing so. I agree with Alan that we are our own worst enemies, and I will continue to stand up for what is effective, and argue against that which is not. It meant a lot to me to hear something like that coming from someone as credible as Alan Gura.

12 thoughts on “Mr. Gura Goes to Reno”

  1. …words actually fail me, Sebastian.

    Like, words fail me.

    So now I am the greatest threat to the Second Amendment? THat’s just not even… what.

    I am left staring in the screen in horror.

  2. Hey, you put yourself into that category, not me. But I don’t think it’s your run of the mill person with odd or extreme views that Gura was talking about.

  3. I wish you had asked him to clarify who these “extremists and lunatics” in the 2A community are.

    Who decides what defines an extremist within a community that is often labeled by the mainstream media and political parties as extremist?

    I think we can all agree that the neo-nazi’s and racists are out on the fringe and deserve to be further marginalized, but what about supporters of constitutional militias? jeffersonian libertarians? people flying gadsden flags?

    These groups are too often grouped together in the minds of the general public, we in the 2A community need to be careful or risk alienating a huge portion of gun rights supporters.

  4. I disagree. I think that we’re all our own biggest enemy. As a group, we keep taking our eye off the goal, and taking too much time out from pursuing that goal to call each other names when we have legitimate differences of opinion on how to best reach it.

    For example, although I’m not a lawyer and don’t play one on TV (nor did I sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night), I disagree with Mr. Gura on his treatment of the issue of automatic weapons during the Heller arguments. I’ve read his explanation, and I believe that he could have answered that question in a way that had less of a “throw that one under the bus” flavor.

    However, he did engineer an incredibly big win, and I salute him for that. With some luck and a lot of hard work, it will be the foundation for many successful lawsuits to come.

    I’m not that familiar with Gorski or the arguments for or against his approach to litigating 2nd Amendment suits. (I do hold that Silveria brought us one of the best quotes on the true nature of the 2nd in history.) However, l’m not going to take too much time from my work for the 2nd in order to bash him, either.

    Like I said, we really need to keep our eye on the goal. We all need to cooperate in reaching it and realize that there will be times when we won’t, and not allow those instances to become destructive to the overall effort.

  5. I used to think that too, but there are egomaniacs out there with kooky ideas, that like to push those kooky ideas forward at the expense of good ideas. You can’t have peaceful coexistence when the existing of a bad strategy threatens a good one. You have to condemn the bad strategy. Various people, including Dave Kopel, Halbrook, and numerous others criticized Silviera, but Gorski went ahead with it anyway and lost. What saved us from true disaster was the Supreme Court refusing to take it.

    And that’s not even mentioning that a lot of the egomaniacs out there enjoy throwing rocks at people who do effective work.

  6. My take from listening to him is that he’s a Civil Rights lawyer who wants to win court cases and build precedent to overturn even more unfair anti-rights laws. He’s not a politician running for office, or a Medical Doctor seeking to cure whole diseased political system. The bad suits and bad cases make his work harder.

  7. Long time reader, first time commenter here; thanks for a great story Sebastian. What caught my notice was the comment about extremists etc. Like others, I have to wonder who decides who gets that label? Last week out at the range, another shooter called me an extremist because I’m a member of Gun Owners of America. He failed to note that I’m also a Life member of the NRA (shoulder patch, and sticker on my truck), even as he roundly expounded on the greatness of the NRA… I asked him why he was an NRA member, and his response was that he supported the Second Amendment. When I asked him why he didn’t support the entire Constitution and Bill of Rights he looked flabbergasted. I asked him to look up ex post facto law,and the NRA’s support of it, and then get back to me. So? If I am some sort of weirdo extremist, then so be it.

    Keep up the good work, we need more people just like you!

  8. Everybody is somebody else’s extremist. Like I said, I don’t think Gura was talking about your run of the mill NRA member, so much as the folks out there who are actively promoting bad ideas, advancing poor cases through the courts, and doing other such things. It’s also not that I think Gura, as a civil rights activists, is suggesting these people have to be shut up, but that their bad ideas need to be countered with good ones.

  9. Sebastian, I understand your point, but how are we to judge what is a “good idea” vs. what is a “bad idea”? As I recall, Heller was roundly condemned (at one point) by the NRA as a bad idea, and it’s turned out to be a shining victory.

    One of the hardest problems about fighting for the Second via the courts is that so often the defendants are not choirboys. If we let every one of them go by without contesting the points, doesn’t it make the fight more difficult when it is finally joined?

  10. I read Gura’s arguements about machine guns in the Heller case and I was not impressed. He gave away that which was not relevant to Heller core specifics. The US attorney was concerned about the implication to the 1934 law with the Circuit Ct opinion and wanted the scope of the Heller decsion not to undermine the 1934 law.

    I thougt that Gura accepted the assumed position that machines guns was poisonous to the case so he agree that it was acceptable for those to be taxed and regulated as they are under the 1934 law.

    Gura is young and inexerienced and that showed in the verbal arguments. He won becasue he was meticulous and presented a good case with good plaintiffs and was helped by the justices.

    Gura and Levy who funded the case were motivated by the civil rights travesty that was DC law. However Gura is not a as passionate devotee to gun rights as many of us are.

    I accepted the incremental approach to push back against bad law. But the best method is to have the rights so accepted that those laws never get enacted.

Comments are closed.