The ACLU's Position on Gun Control

This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of protestors from around the country took to the streets to demand action against gun violence. The movement has been energized by young people who turned out en masse in response to the horrific shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people — most of them teenagers — lost their lives. We applaud the many students who have exercised their speech rights to seek change. This moment calls on us to act not only to ensure that massacres like Parkland do not recur but to end the everyday gun violence that takes exponentially more lives from our communities. It also demands that we do so in a manner consistent with our most cherished civil liberties and constitutional rights.

Lawmakers across the country are currently considering a range of gun control measures. The American Civil Liberties Union firmly believes that legislatures can, consistent with the Constitution, impose reasonable limits on firearms sale, ownership, and use, without raising civil liberties concerns. We recognize, as the Supreme Court has stated, that the Constitution does not confer a “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” But some proposed reforms encroach unnecessarily on civil liberties.

When analyzing gun control measures from a civil liberties perspective, we place them into one of three categories. First are laws that regulate or restrict particular types of guns or ammunition, regardless of the purchaser. These sorts of regulations generally raise few, if any, civil liberties issues. Second are proposals that regulate how people acquire guns, again regardless of the identity of the purchaser. These sorts of regulations may raise due process and privacy concerns, but can, if carefully crafted, respect civil liberties. Third are measures that restrict categories of purchasers — such as immigrants or people with mental disabilities — from owning or buying a gun. These sorts of provisions too often are not evidence-based, reinforce negative stereotypes, and raise significant equal protection, due process, and privacy issues.

Many of the options now being considered raise no civil liberties concerns. That includes bans on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks. Raising the minimum age for all gun ownership to 21, currently the legal age for purchasing a handgun, also raises no civil liberties issues, as research on brain development shows that young people’s impulse control differs from that of adults.

So-called “red flag laws,” which provide for protective orders to remove guns from people who pose a significant risk to themselves or others, can also be a reasonable way to further public safety. To be constitutional, however, they must at a minimum have clear, nondiscriminatory criteria for defining persons as dangerous and a fair process for those affected to object and be heard by a court.

Other gun control measures may also be justified, such as laws that keep guns out of sensitive places like schools and government buildings; requirements that guns include smart technologies (like password protection) that ensure that only the lawful owner of the gun may use it; and requirements that gun owners first obtain a permit, much like a driver’s license, establishing that they know how to use guns safely and responsibly. There would also be no constitutional bar to lifting the existing limits on Center for Disease Control-funded research into guns and gun violence.

Extending background checks, which cover federally licensed gun stores, to gun shows and other unlicensed transactions, is also a reasonable reform. There is no civil liberties justification for the “gun show loophole.” We do not object to universal background checks if the databases on which they rely are accurate, secure, and respect privacy.

But the categories of people that federal law currently prohibits from possessing or purchasing a gun are overbroad, not reasonably related to the state’s interest in public safety, and raise significant equal protection and due process concerns. Any number of the categories, for example, require no proof of dangerousness, and they often serve to further bias. For example, the list of those barred includes: anyone convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than a year, whether or not the crime has any connection to violence; people with mental disabilities and many noncitizens who have not been shown to be dangerous in any way; and those who have used substances on the federal controlled substance list, including marijuana in states in which it is legal.

Other proposed gun regulations also raise civil liberties concerns. The proposal to ban individuals listed on the No-Fly List from purchasing weapons, for example, is constitutionally problematic, because that list lacks basic due process protections and its standards are unconstitutionally vague.

Proposals to arm teachers and install metal detectors in schools also raise significant civil liberties implications. Introducing more guns to schools will not make them safer and may especially endanger children of color, who already bear the brunt of teachers and administrators’ racial biases. The solution to gun violence is not more guns, but less.

The Supreme Court has said that the Constitution permits reasonable regulations of firearms in the interest of public safety. We agree. But those regulations can and should be crafted to respect fundamental rights to equal protection, due process, privacy, and freedom from unlawful searches. Lawmakers should have the moral courage to act and to do so consistent with our most cherished liberties.

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Anonymous

No rights for anybody under 21. No freedom of speech, no freedom of religion, no right to travel, no right to a fair trial, no marriages period straight gay or other until 21, no right to vote, no reproductive rights until 21 (does not apply to men since they don't have reproductive rights) no more right to an abortion until you're 21. You'll be safer this way living in your parents basement with your pants tightly closed to protect you from STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

Anonymous

The ACLU s position on this renders the very name of their organization hypocritical.

Anonymous

Very disappointing statement

As a reminder

"the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights

Got it? Bill of _rights_

Anonymous

"The solution to gun violence is not more guns, but less."
That is the problem. No one thinks any more, if you are so brain dead that actually makes sense to you then why don't you do some actual research instead of acting out of impulsion. Chicago, strict gun control laws overwhelming gun violence. Texas, everyone open carries and hardly any gun violence... "Why?" You may ask. Because criminals don't want to be killed, they want to have the upper hand. Give every man, woman and child the education to properly handle and use a firearm and put a gun in their hands and you will have a lot less crime and gun violence. Mass shootings don't happen at gun shows they happen in places that are "gun free zones" If you want to be so blind to what is actually happening you need to go sit in the corner and wait for the next gun wielding criminal to show up for a slaughter, me on the other hand I will be standing at the door gun in hand to protect my family, property, and neighbors (including people that are uncomfortable with my openly carrying my revolver in public). Some day I might save your life. Not because of less guns on the street but because a law abiding citizen still has a gun to match the criminal.

Anonymous

Is there an organization that lobbies effectively for gun control but respects these principles?

Anonymous

Perhaps a congressperson willing to spearhead legislation for gun control as outlined here?
Looking to make a donation to their campaign

Anonymous

And people wonder why everyone does not support the ACLU.

Fishermen61

Shall not be infringed!!! The constitution does not give us rights, it was written to protect our rights!

Garth

It's been respond to by attorneys who deal on the Constitution that the law second amendment does give the people to keep and bear arms several past administration striped money from all ready made laws such as back ground checks mental health and so on use th the laws that were in place that worked also why pick on people on disability most of the people who we all know are on disability are from body injury not mental related also the congras needs to step up and refund prog that worked this all happened in the bush and Clinton times look back when these programs we're funded only a small percentage of nuts or idiots or something like that fell through the cracks. It's easy to go after law abiding people we don't brake laws we play fair we obay the laws my point get off gun control because it's control it's taking rights off honest people also it's a end run on taking the second amendment away from the Constitution my opinion of the ACLU used to be great but now ACLU is tied to anti guns groups sad point being it's our rights given to us by the fourfathers they knew this was coming when they did not know but they were right sad thatlthe oath of office means nothing the oath is saying they swere to prtect the Constitution from forgan AND domestic guess not

Anonymous

The Second Amendment is poorly written in my opinion. Some people with a gun control agenda argue that the comma before "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" makes it subordinate to the first part about a well regulated militia. But to me the second phrase after the comma is too definitive to be subordinate to the first part. The term regulated didn't mean government regulation back then as it does now. The 2nd amendment gives you the right to keep guns in your home and on your person but that's as far as it goes. The government can regulate when and how and under what circumstances they can be used. Which means that issues of self defense stand your ground and castle doctrine are up for debate.

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