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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Free Thought

You need to stay on top of current events. In the amendment it clearly states “the right of the people” that refers to individual people or citizens. This is supported by the Supreme Court ruling in DC v. Heller.
The militia is all citizens 21 years or older. The militia is to have no direct connection with any branch of the military, It’s the citizens army. Now, I agree that the second amendment doesn’t give citizens the right to any weapon of there choosing. But as of right now, we have been reduced to semi-version of military style weapons, not real military weapons. And now the “assault weapon bans” are taking those options away. No leader in their right mind would send soldiers in to combat with these semi-version rifles, but we are now ask the militia, to be our final line of defense, with even less.

Anonamouse

I suggest some remedial civics classes and reading the works of the authors of the Constitution as well as the various individuals who ratified it, and the state constitutions of many of the ratifying states. You would learn that the did consider every single person (male only at the time) to be an automatic member of the militia, that some early states actually required guns to be owned by all militia eligible and that "well regulated" meant equipped and in working order.

If you actually read the SCOTUS decision on Heller, you would see many of these things called out in the various Amicus Briefs and the majority opinion.

But you know, don't let my factsplaining get in the way of your emotions.

Michael Del Vecchio

2008 Heller vs DC quashed this poor argument by ruling that American Citizens have the right to keep and bear arms, unconnected to military service, for lawful purposes such as, but not limited to, self-defense.

Furthermore, it was determined in that same case that "Well Regulated" meant "Well Prepared", as supported in The Federalist Papers. Even more so, the entire Amendment is devoid of any reference to any government body.

Anonymous

SCOTUS has already weighed in on the language and it is codified in Heller that the right to own a gun is an individual right. Opinions on that are now fairly irrelevant.

Anonymous

If you believe the National Guard's job is to protect the citizens against the government, you are WRONG!!! The National Guard is just another government controlled and funded agency. The armed citizen will have to fight for his family and himself against all government agencies when it gets to the point that the government decides to take all the citizens' Constitutional rights away.

Free Thought

Imagine a lion, the biggest lion that has ever walked the earth. Its roar so immense that the ground shakes and the trees bend. But this lion has no teeth, no claws. Do you still fear this lion? Does it matter how loud it roars? With out our ability to defend our rights we will loose them. Our voices will have no weight.
Out of all of the horrific and inhumane acts that mankind has done to it fellow man, less then 3% is done by rouge individuals. The vast majority of mans sins have been done under the pretense of authority. Good men and women following orders, doing things that they would have never done other wise. Those that seek authority, power, will always become tyrants. And the will of tyrants will always subjugate the liberty of the people.
Freedom is free! Until someone comes to take it from you. Then you are only free if you fight back. Remember, our former president did away with Posse comitatus. Our military, can once again, be used against the citizens, armed or disarmed. And if you don’t think these things are not possible, you’re just not paying attention to the world. Look at the corruption in our police forces, you don’t think it wouldn’t get worse? Take time to talk with a combat vet about what they did following orders.
Our media is a propaganda machine. We are constantly being mislead with half truths and misused terms. Be freethinkers not sheeple. Search for truth and allow it to be self evident.
Please, do not sacrifice liberty for the illusion of security. For that the evil, that does exist, will give you neither.

Michael Del Vecchio

This is an unfortunate position the ACLU takes, as it is actually inconsistent with Suprem Court precedent set on an individuals right to keep and bear arms.

Due to 2008 Heller vs DC, the ACLU's opinion on the ban of certain types of firearms and accessories is out of line with the ruling, further backed by the findings of 2010 McDonald vs Chicago and 2016 Caetano vs Massachusetts.

Supreme Court uses Heller as the precedent for all cases moving forward, and it has positiviely poised itself in the court of gun owners as it comes to so-called "Assault Weapons Bans". If a stun gun is protected under the 2nd Amendment, as was determined by Caetano, then an AR15 - and other weapons that fall under the made up category of "Assault Weapons" are even more dult protected.

Heller protected semi-automatically functioning handguns - even handguns chambered in the same cartridges used in rifles. Semi-automatically functioning rifles, which by design are no different, nor any more dangerous than the aforementioned rifles, cannot reasonably seen as mkre deadly. Furthermore, proven and consistently reported FBI statistics highlight the fact that rifles, as a general class of firearm, are used 20x to 25x less in firearms homicide than handguns - which, again, are as common asmnd protected. That means so-called "Assault Weapons" are used even less in gun crime overall, and overwhelming research supports this.

Therefore, not fitting either the "dangerous" or "unusual" categories cited in Heller (There are over 12M AR15s alone in private ownership), an "Assault Weapons Ban" would quickly become the point of a Constitutional Crisis.

This, along with many other thinly veiled remarks against the 2nd Amendment, shows that the ACLU is not at all poised to protect the rights and interests of your common American.

They instead act in the name of special intereste poised against the 2nd Amendment - such as Michael Bloombergs Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety, as well as Giffords Courage and the Brady Campaign - just as the NRA acts as a special interest in the name of protecting American Constitutional Rights.

I implore the ACLU to conduct research, independent from the influence of the above groups, and find for yourselves what an unbiased civil rights organiziation should actually be protecting, and not pushing an agenda that is easily debunked at a prima facie value.

Until then, my money and time goes to the NRA, GOA and SAF.

Because I've finally seen proof that I may never rely on thr ACLU when it comes to preserving mine, and tens of millions of Americans of all races, genders and creeds - especially as it comes to our Protected 2nd Amendment Rights.

Good day.

Anonymous

I’m proud of two checks that I write every year, one to the ACLU and another to the NRA. I see each as a crucial force in challenging populist legislation to ensure that legislation meets Constitutional scrutiny.

I would say to fellow gun owners that the ACLU has never been focused on 2nd Amendment rights in terms of protecting our rights to own popular guns. That said, they play an important role in making sure in this latest populist hysteria doesn’t result unjust search and seizure or giving the average street cop the ability to adjudicate you on a street corner. The Supreme Court will decide what happens with assault rifles and magazines in the end. In the meantime let’s make sure that we recognize the great work that the ACLU has done not for guns, but for gun owners.

Member

You have lost my support with this. You should support all civil rights, especially those that are unpopular at a given moment. I really would like to hear an explanation of how a 20 year old isn’t entitled to equal protection against infringement of his or her 2nd amendment rights under the law, unless this is a part of your long game to provide even further legal precedence on the right of all civilians to own firearms for self defense.

Anonymous

The constitution says you have a right to keep and bear arms. It does not put a limit of size onto it. Scotus in the Heller ruling said that banning guns that were in common use is unconstitutional. So any kind of law against a common type of gun, such as the AR-15 which is the #1 selling model of gun, is unconstitutional. Gun control has its roots in racism so with all of this the ACLU should be against any gun control laws other than ones that specifically are aimed at keeping convicted criminals from getting guns

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