Law Professors Send Letter To NRA Over Amendment

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Three Boalt Hall School of Law professors are among 47 legal scholars who have signed a letter to the National Rifle Association demanding the organization "stop misleading the public about the Second Amendment."

Addressed to NRA President Charleton Heston, the letter was delivered last week in conjunction with a press teleconference held by four leading experts on constitutional law.

The letter stated that laws banning certain types of weapons and requiring safety devices on others, as well as those mandating registration and licensing, are fully consistent with the Second Amendment.

Supporters of the letter are demanding that the NRA stop saying that the Second Amendment prohibits any sort of gun regulation.

Law school professor Charles Weisselberg said the letter, which was circulated to law faculty across the country, is designed to inform the NRA that many legal experts have a different interpretation of the Second Amendment.

"I don't know that there's anything that folks want to accomplish except what's stated in the letter," he said. "It's to get the NRA to reconsider its position."

But Trish Hylton, an NRA spokesperson, said the signers of the letter are a minority in the world of law faculty.

"The predominate view among scholars is the opposite," she said. "The Second Amendment is just as relevant today as when the founding fathers wrote it."

While the NRA opposed legislation in the U.S. Senate that imposed a waiting period on gun show purchases, Hylton said the organization does at times favor gun control.

"There are tens of thousands of gun control regulations on the books in this country, and the NRA has supported some of the regulations," she said.

According to Hylton, the NRA trains more people in firearm safety than any other organization. It has 40,000 instructors who instruct 750,000 people in firearm safety each year.

"I think it's important to understand that the NRA is an organization that teaches people safety and responsibility," she said. "That's what we were founded on."

Supporters of the letter said more rules are needed. Acting Boalt professor Chris Kutz said he endorsed the letter because of its message that the Second Amendment provides for governmental regulations of firearms.

"I signed the letter because it seemed to me to make a plausible and important claim about the need for legitimate gun reform in America," he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court last issued a ruling on the Second Amendment in 1939. In U.S. v. Miller, the court ruled that the amendment creates no individual right to possess a firearm, except for the regulation of a militia.

The court's ruling has been upheld in more than 100 federal and state appellate cases involving the Second Amendment.

"I think it is pretty common ground among constitutional scholars that the Second Amendment does not really mean that people have the right to own guns at home," said UC Berkeley law professor Richard Buxbaum.


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