While the Giffords Law Center is, in general, a good source of information about gun laws in the United States, we have concerns about the change in direction that the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (LCPGV)has taken, especially on the issue of the proper interpretation of the Second Amendment, since partnering with the Giffords organization.

The LCPGV filed an amicus brief in the the 2008 case Supreme Court case of District of Columbia versus Heller in support of the constitutionality of Washington DC’s partial handgun ban and safe storage laws.  Gabrielle Giffords was at that time a congresswoman from Arizona, and she signed on to an amicus brief in support of Dick Heller’s claim that the District of Columbia’s handgun and safe storage laws violated the Second Amendment. In a rogue decision that reversed over 200 years of prior legal precedent, including four prior Supreme Court decisions, a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled in Heller that the District of Columbia’s handgun and safe storage laws did, indeed, violate the Second Amendment.

The majority opinion in the Heller decision, written by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has been publicly condemned by respected authorities as an example of “snow jobs” produced by well-staffed justices and as “gun rights propaganda passing as scholarship.” The late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “Heller is unquestionably the most clearly incorrect decision that the Court announced during my [35 year] tenure on the bench.” In Heller, the five member majority of the Supreme Court endorsed an interpretation of the Second Amendment that the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger had called, “one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word, ‘fraud’ – on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

The LCPGV website formerly described the Heller decision as being a “radical departure” from the Supreme Court’s previous interpretation of the Second Amendment. Since partnering with the Giffords organization, though, the Giffords Law Center has published a pamphlet describing Heller as a “landmark” decision that “affirmed the right to keep a gun for self-defense.”  In fact, however, the Supreme Court didn’t “affirm” a right to individual gun ownership in the Heller decision. In Heller, the Court created an individual right where none previously existed. As the LCPGV noted in its own amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Heller, there was no constitutional right, Second Amendment or otherwise, for anyone to own any kind of gun unrelated to service in a well regulated militia prior to the rogue 2008 Heller decision.

Americans Against Gun Violence is also concerned about a statement in the same pamphlet under the heading of “Slippery Slope to Confiscation:”

Nevermind that no serious organization advocates for mass firearm confiscation…or that collecting America’s 357 million firearms would be a logistical impossibility….In reality, smart gun laws are about saving lives and ensuring responsible gun ownership, not taking away guns.

Prior to its partnership with the Giffords organization, the LCPGV had correctly stated on its website that the United States has by far the highest rate of gun violence of any high income democratic country of the world, and that:

The reasons for this great disparity are clear: Americans own far more civilian firearms – particularly handguns – than people in other industrialized nations, and U.S. gun control laws are among the most lax in the world.

Americans Against Gun Violence believes, as the above statement implies, that in order to reduce rates of gun violence in the United States to levels comparable to the rates in other high income democratic countries, we must adopt comparably stringent gun control laws. Such laws need not preclude responsible hunters and target shooters from practicing their sports with traditional sporting rifles and shotguns, but the adoption of such laws will require the surrender and destruction of many other firearms, including handguns and assault rifles. Substantially reducing the pool of guns in our country is not a “logistical impossibility.” Other countries have done it, and so can we. The longer we wait, though, the more guns are sold, and the more difficult it becomes to reduce rates of per capita gun ownership in the United States to rates comparable to other high income democratic countries.

We’ve formally addressed these and other concerns with the leadership of the Giffords Law Center, and we’re awaiting a reply.