The Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics recently published a special volume, Gun Violence in America: An Interdisciplinary Examination. The volume was pulled together and edited by Yale Law School’s Ian Ayres, Abbe Gluck, and Tracey Meares with articles largely co-authored with law students from their gun violence seminar last year. Joseph and I have co-authored articles in the volume, which are highlighted below. The whole set of articles look incredibly fascinating and certainly worth the read.
Courts reviewing gun laws that burden Second Amendment rights ask how effectively the laws serve public safety — yet typically discuss public safety narrowly, without considering the many dimensions of that interest gun laws serve. “Public safety” is a social good: it includes the public’s interest in physical safety as a good in itself, and as a foundation for community and for the exercise of constitutional liberties. Gun laws protect bodies from bullets — and Americans’ freedom and confidence to participate in every domain of our shared life, whether to attend school, to shop, to listen to a concert, to gather for prayer, or to assemble in peaceable debate. Courts must enforce the Second Amendment in ways that respect the public health and constitutional reasons a democracy seeks to protect public safety. Lawyers and citizen advocates can help, by creating a richer record of their reasons in seeking to enact laws regulating guns.
This inquiry is urgent at a time when the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority may expand restrictions on gun laws beyond the right to keep arms for self-defense in the home first recognized in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008.
Does the Second Amendment protect those who threaten others by negligently or recklessly wielding firearms? What line separates constitutionally legitimate gun displays from threatening activities that can be legally proscribed? This article finds guidance in the First Amendment doctrine of true threats, which permits punishment of “statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individual.” The Second Amendment, like the First, should not be read to protect those who threaten unlawful violence. And to the degree that the constitution requires a culpable mental state (mens rea) in such circumstances, the appropriate standard should be recklessness.
In response to the continued expansion of “red flag” laws allowing broader classes of people to petition a court for the removal of firearms from individuals who exhibit dangerous conduct, this paper argues that state laws should adopt a double-filter provision that balances individual rights and government public safety interests. The main component of such a provision is a special statutory category — “reporting party” — that enables a broader social network, such as co-workers or school administrators, to request that a law enforcement officer file a petition for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO). A double-filter provision would not give reporting parties a right to file a court petition directly. Instead, parties would file a request for petition with law enforcement officers (first filter), who must seek an ERPO from the court if they find the reporting party’s information credible. That information is then transmitted to the court (second filter) as a sworn affidavit of the reporting party. The goal is to facilitate a balanced policy model that (1) widens the reporting circle in order to feed more potentially life-saving information into the system, (2) mitigates the risk of erroneous deprivation of constitutionally protected due process and Second Amendment rights.