Geof Stone's Statement on Second Amendment Signed by 50+ Con Law Professors

The Second Amendment
Geoffrey R. Stone
The Huffington Post
January 30, 2013

The following statement, which UCLA law professor Adam Winkler and I crafted, was signed by more than fifty of the nation's most distinguished constitutional law professors. The statement refutes unfounded claims that the Second Amendment precludes Congress from enacting legislation to reduce gun violence in the United States. Although these scholars hold widely divergent views on constitutional interpretation, and often fiercely disagree on a broad range of constitutional issues, they all agree on this question. The statement was submitted today to Congress in anticipation of the beginning of hearings on the proposed legislation.

Statement of Professors of Constitutional Law: The Second Amendment and the Constitutionality of the Proposed Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

Several proposed reforms to the nation's gun laws, including universal background checks and restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines and assault weapons, are now pending before Congress. Concerns have been raised that these measures might violate the Second Amendment. We, the undersigned professors with expertise in constitutional law, write to address those concerns.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment, which provides, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," guarantees an individual's right to have a functional firearm in the home for self-defense. The Court's decision in that case, District of Columbia v. Heller, struck down a D.C. law that effectively barred the use of any firearm for self-defense. The law is now clear that the government may not completely disarm law-abiding, responsible citizens. The Court also made clear, however, that many gun regulations remain constitutionally permissible. "Like most rights," the Court explained, "the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited." Writing for the Court, Justice Antonin Scalia explained that restrictions on "dangerous and unusual" weapons are constitutional and that "nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt" on laws that prohibit "the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill" or laws that impose "conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

Geoffrey R. Stone


Assault Weapons

Technically, assault weapons are rifles like the M16A3, with the capability of automatic fire and three round burst fire, which in the former mode can fire from 500 to 750 rounds a minute. They need the features they have: a barrel shroud, to protect against touching a hot barrel; a muzzle brake/flash suppressor, to better control muzzel rise in full auto mode and prevent night position disclosure; a pistol grip or stock thumb hole, to better control the weapon in full auto mode; a bayonet mount, for close in combat with a bayonet; and  large clips, to support ammo consumption rates in full auto or burst mode.  

Assualt rifles are tightly controlled and are not the issue in the present debate.

Semiautomatic rifles, dressed up to look like assault rifles are the issue. Barbie doll mock ups, if you will. They are no more or less dangerous with or without these dress up features, excepting only large clips do make them more deadly. However, even smaller clips can be changed quickly by those skilled at it, so clip size alone is not dispositive on lethality. Therefore, much of the present debate regarding so-called assualt rifles is essentially over nothing. The NRA and its members are being riled needlessly for the most part. Why do it?  Good arguments can be made for a ten round clip limitation, however -- indeed, for five. The rest is antagonizing nonsense.

Resources and efforts should be placed elsewhere.