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

everything was constitutional or not till arming teachers . then it was a non factual liberal bias opin ion right from the American federation of teachers etc. that lost the this person . overt 12 states in this country allow armed teachers with PROPER screening and training . imagine white teachers protecting black or brown students with there lives if necessary . remember all you experts the longer a killer has to shoot before he is stopped the worst it is . not every school is 1or 2 minutes away from law enforcement

Brian

This article is wrong on so many issues I will address as many as I can. 1 Raising the age to 21 to buy a gun because brains may not be developed. Wrong. The US government has determined the age of adulthood with both rights and responsibilities is 18. You cant allow an 18 year old to vote, enter in contracts, join the military and then say No guns because your not 21. If a person cant be trusted with a gun they cant be trusted to vote to determine everything from the local School board and bond issues effecting property taxes all the way up to POTUS. If a person is an adult at 18 then you cant deny them the right to possess a gun. So if you dont want a person to have a gun until 21 then no voting no entering until 21 or anything else an adult can do. Proposals to allow teachers to carry guns in school does not FORCE a teacher to carry a gun. It just means they can do so IF THEY CHOOSE too. And Schools in Big cities like NY and LA have had metal detectors for decades. There is no "gun show loophole". A vendor with an FFL license to sell guns has to run a BG check to a buyer just like they do at their brick and mortar gun store. A private person may sell a gun to another private seller from a federal law perspective. And that means at their home, in a public parking lot or even a gun show. that is not a loophole. And yes its already illegal to sell to a felon so laws exist on that private citizen selling a gun. Universal background checks do not respect the privacy of the buyer or seller. For a UBC to work it would require gun registration of ALL gun owners and their guns. Which is a 4A violation of privacy. While a gun owner should have a list of gun serial numbers for insurance in the case of loss due to fire or theft, the government does not need that information for the hell of it. If a gun is stolen then the owner can give LE the SNs of that exact gun. But nothing else. The nation freaked out when Trump asked for state voter registration information. But the government having guns registered is worse. Demanding a license to just buy and possess a gun wrong. Owing a gun is a right. Not a privilege. No other constitutional right demands a license to express. People point to a hunting license but thats different. Hunting is a specific use for a gun. The game permit helps the government track how many game it allows to be hunted for population control of said game. A conceal carry permit license is Ok because that is a gun owner carrying their gun in public and should know how to use it properly and the laws behind it. But to have a license just to walk into a store and buy a gun and keep at home or property for self defense or a farmer having a gun to protect livestock from predators is a civil right and a license not needed. The idea that an "assault weapons ban" is not a violation of civil rights is wrong. The founders wrote the 2A because they as citizens created the US from the worlds superpower of the time. the British empire. They saw the 2A as the final last stand for civilians against a tyrannical government that stomped on all other rights in the constitution. And yes that meant the most modern rifles of the day to be effective in fighting for their rights. A true constitutionalist would say that anything in the military should be legal in civilian hands. But we also know that in a world where some weapons cost millions of dollars or billions that civilians simply cant have weapons the military has. So the line is clear. "keep and bear arms" meant guns. Not explosives. So any rifle or handgun that a person can carry by themselves. (NOT crew themed guns) So yes a citizen does have the right to that AR-15 just as much as great grandpas' single shot folding shotgun made 70 years ago that sat in the barn for decades as defense from rabid varmints that got too close to the livestock pens. I know the left will say "no guy with an AR will last against a drone with a missile". While they are tactically correct that does not mean the Ar should be banned. And if the government has the power to ban an AR-15, then that also opens the slippery slope of banning every other gun as well. If a person does not have a constitutional right to a specific gun as an AR-15 they dont have a right to that Glock handgun, that MArlin Deer rifle or that Mossberg duck pump shotgun either. And some on the left have said that if a federal ban of an AR-15 is upheld by SCOTUS they will file lawsuits on every other type of gun until every specific gun is banned. So yes the 2A says citizens can have guns but they will sue to have every specific gun banned. Bottom line there are thousands of laws on the books combined at the local state and federal level. and tens of thousands of regulations backing those up. We dont need any more. Its already illegal for felons and nutcases from possessing guns. Passing any more laws will cross the tipping point into stomping on 2A civil rights. And No a person does not need to be a militia member. "the right of THE PEOPLE" clearly means that wife at home can have a gun for self defense while spouse is serving militia duty. So a civilian owning a gun is NOT dependent on militia membership. Had the 2A said "the right of the militia" instead of "the people" then gun possession would be a privilege instead of a right. But no matter how much the left hates it. Civilian gun possession IS a right. and that includes the AR-15.

Member

This is tortuous and ridiculous and nearly logic-free. ACLU has to accept that Heller got it right. Semi-auto assault-weapon bans are not common-sense but rather an illogical fallacy and demonstrated failure and, unless also applied to all local, state, and federal police, would also be a violation of the equal protection cclause as well.

ACLU needs to fully support all 10 articles of the Bill of Rights, not just favored portions of just a few of them.

ACLU needs to stay non-partisan, regardless of the fact that hordes of its new members are mostly from the party that lost in 2016.

No rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights should require a license or government permission to be exercised. ACLU would never tolerate government license requirements prior to making speeches, peaceably assembling on private property, etc. so don’t pretend that requiring such government approval would be non-infringing of the right to keep and bear arms.

Kelly

It definitely seems like the ACLU holds some bias on the subject. It was also interesting to see the author talk about using the data to make a law. It was followed by agreeing with an “assault weapons” ban Despite the data showing that rifle’s are used the least amount when it comes to guns.

Anonymous

To sum it all up: make whatever laws against gun ownership that you want ignoring the 2nd amendment in the process, just don’t discriminate against anybody while you’re doing it.

The right to self defense with the most effective means necessary is a human right and any and all laws infringing on that right are a violation of those human rights and constitutional rights. Kavanaugh’s confirmation will set the record straight. :)

Mark

The ACLUs position on the 2nd Amendment is entirely antithetical to its mission statement. The 2nd Amendment's vernacular is unambiguous and specifically states that the right of the people to bear arms "shall not be infringed." By supporting highly ambiguous "reasonable limitations" on firearms, you are granting the state carte blanche power to infringe on this clearly enumerated civil liberty. The only consistent ethical decision the ACLU can make is to champion the constitution and challenge ALL gun control measures. By doing so, the ACLU gains the added benefit of stopping the "gun show loop hole" for the simple reason that there will not be an infringing law on the books that provides the prerequisite for a loop hole in the first place.

Trevor

This statement is very true: "These sorts of provisions too often are not evidence-based". The problem is that then the article goes on to list all the ways to limit guns without any evidence-based research. The only reference to finding a real solution that I see is this: "lifting the existing limits on Center for Disease Control-funded research into guns and gun violence."

SAM

ACLU- Go ahead you got my support. Seems like the right to own fire arm is greater than the right to freedom, liberty and happiness since I can't see any free or liberated people in the 22 new newtown, 17 in parkland, multiples in Orlando club and on and on. The above statement must be true. A right comes with responsibility. Show you are responsible( qualifications- responsibility evaluation - mental health, general health and deep background check evaluation) and you shall have your right. That is the starting point. Also gun owners must have insurance coverage for their actions much like automobiles. It should cover them ( in criminal cases) and any other who they may harm. Guns and ammunition may come in cheap but the insurance companies and economics will keep the people in line. This will not violate the right to own a gun for anyone. Afterall to enjoy the right to own a gun one has to have some money to buy it. They have to buy it in their name so certainly the associated insurance will also be purchased by them in their name. You want it you can have just buy the insurance.

Anonymous

It seems the only time the ACLU believes a constitutional right is violated when regarding gun control only pertains to the 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments. What would be an example of a potential gun control measure that would restrict 2nd amendment rights?

Anonymous

I thought the ACLU was supossed to protect the constitutional right of all Americans, including those 18-21. When are we legally adults in this country? At 18 I can get married, join the military, be sentenced to die or life in prison, and vote in federal elections. I'm pretty sure that makes people legally adults when they are 18. As such, blanket bans on their constitutional right to bear arms are against the constitution.

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