Jan. 13, 2009
Second Amendment attorney discusses rolling back gun laws in lecture
The attorney who successfully persuaded the Supreme Court to overturn Washington, D.C.'s gun ban last year said the case is just the first step in a process to limit governments from restricting a person's right to own a gun.
"No single case will ever tell us for all times when it's OK to bear arms and when it's not," Alan Gura said in a presentation at the University of Iowa College of Law on Monday. "This decision is just the first step. The constitution is forever, and interpreting it will never end."
Gura was the lead attorney in the case District of Columbia v. Heller, which was heard by the Court last March and decided in June. At issue was a law restricting gun ownership by residents of Washington, D.C.
Supporting Gura's argument, the Court issued a wide-ranging landmark ruling that struck down the law by saying that it violated the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms for the purposes of an individual's self-defense.
As a result of the decision, lawsuits are being filed in other cities that have similar gun ownership restrictions to overturn their laws, such as Gura's current efforts in Chicago.
Gura said his argument in the Heller case centered on the "original public meaning" of the language in the Second Amendment from when the constitution was written in the 1780s. Then, he said gun possession was meant as a form of self-defense, and so argued that the amendment should continue to protect the right to bear arms intended for that purpose.
He said that means the amendment should protect such arms as handguns and rifles. He said such protection does not extend to weapons with a primary use that isn't self-defense, such as bazookas or machine guns.
Gura said he believes the Heller decision will eventually apply to all state and local gun laws.
"Eventually, the lid will come off the Second Amendment and governments will have to show a practical good coming out of restricting weapons," he said.
Gura is a partner in the Alexandria, Va. law firm of Gura & Possessky. He was 37-years old at the time of last spring's oral arguments, making him one of the youngest attorneys ever to argue such a significant case before the Supreme Court.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
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