On January 5, 2016, President Obama announced he would be taking executive action to reduce gun violence. Surrounded by families of the Sandy Hook tragedy and other mass killings, he vowed to not allow guns to get in the wrong hands. In the past decade, more than 100,000 people have died as a result of...
Lawyer 2 Lawyer
David B. Kopel is research director of the Independence Institute, a public policy research organization in Golden, Colorado, and...
Laura Cutilletta oversees the Law Center’s state firearms legislation project which involves tracking and analyzing firearms legislation in all...
Bob Ambrogi is a lawyer, legal journalist, and the publisher and editor-in-chief of LexBlog.com. A former co-host of Lawyer...
On January 5, 2016, President Obama announced he would be taking executive action to reduce gun violence. Surrounded by families of the Sandy Hook tragedy and other mass killings, he vowed to not allow guns to get in the wrong hands. In the past decade, more than 100,000 people have died as a result of gun violence. So, will the President’s recent action impact gun control or will all remain the same?
In this episode of Lawyer 2 Lawyer, host Bob Ambrogi joins David B. Kopel, adjunct professor of advanced constitutional law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence as they take a look at this executive order on guns, “smart guns”, state laws, public reaction, and the impact this executive order could have on gun violence.
David B. Kopel is research director of the Independence Institute, a public policy research organization in Golden, Colorado, and is an associate policy analyst with the Cato Institute, in Washington, D.C. Kopel is one of several contributors to The Volokh Conspiracy, a group weblog of law professors, which is part of the Washington Post. In 2008, he appeared before the United States Supreme Court as part of the team presenting the oral argument in District of Columbia v. Heller.
Laura Cutilletta oversees the Law Center’s state firearms legislation project which involves tracking and analyzing firearms legislation in all 50 states. She also shares responsibility for the Law Center’s work providing information, research, and analysis to the media, public officials, and activists seeking legal solutions to gun violence.
Special thanks to our sponsor, Clio.
Lawyer 2 Lawyer: President Obama’s Executive Order to Reduce Gun Violence – 1/22/2016
Intro: I think it was, in some respect much ado about nothing. It was successful in its political objective, which was to distract public and media conversation away from ISIS and national security and to get it back to this culture war issue we’ve been debating for many years.
No, I wouldn’t say that there were more things he could have done, but we were very happy with what he did. We are not looking at what he didn’t do, we’re looking at what he did do and seeing some really good steps that he’s taken. We think that he did almost everything he could do.
Welcome to the award-winning podcast Lawyer to Layer, with J. Craig Williams and Robert Ambrogi, bringing you the latest legal news and observations with the leading experts in the legal profession. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
Bob Ambrogi: Hello and welcome to Lawyer 2 Lawyer on the Legal Talk Network. This is Bob Ambrogi coming to from just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I write a blog called Lawsites and another blog called Media Law. My co host, J. Craig Williams, is unable to be with us today unfortunately. Before we get going with today’s topic, let me just take a moment to thank our sponsor, Clio. Clio is the online practice management software platform for lawyers available at www.GoClio.com. Thanks to Clio for their continuing sponsorship with this program. On January 5th, 2015, President Obama announced that he would be taking executive action against gun violence. Surrounded by families of the Sandy Hook tragedy and other mass shootings, he vowed not to allow guns to get into the wrong hands. In the past decade, more than a hundred thousand people have died as a result of gun violence. So will the President’s recent action have any effect on gun violence, or will everything remain the same? Today on Lawyer 2 Lawyer we’re going to take a look at this executive order and the implications under the law, the public reaction, and the likely impact it will have going forward. And to help us do that today we have two guests. Let me introduce them and then we’ll get our discussion going. First, let me introduce David B. Kopel. David is adjunct professor of advanced constitutional law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. He is also research director of the Independence Institute, a public policy research organization in Golden, Colorado, and an associate policy analyst with the Cato Institute, in Washington, D.C. Kopel is one of several contributors to The Volokh Conspiracy blog, a weblog of professors, and others part of the Washington Post. In 2008, he appeared before the United States Supreme Court as part of the team presenting the oral argument in District of Columbia v. Heller. Welcome to Lawyer 2 Lawyer, David Kopel.
David B. Kopel: Thank you.
Bob Ambrogi: And also joining us today is Laura Cutilletta, a senior staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Laura oversees the Law Center’s state firearms legislation project which involves tracking and analyzing firearms legislation in all 50 states. She also shares responsibility for the Law Center’s work providing information, research, and analysis to the media, public officials, and activists seeking legal solutions to gun violence. Welcome to Lawyer 2 Lawyer, Laura.
Laura Cutilletta: Thank you.
Bob Ambrogi: Before we get into the substance of the issues, I wanted to ask each of you to tell us a little bit more about the work that you do. Obviously, I’ve just introduced you and outlined it a little bit, but David, let’s just start with you and talk a little bit more about the work that you do around the area of guns and the law.
David B. Kopel: Sure. I’ve been at the Independence Institute since 1992 and have been writing on the firearms issue since 1998. I’ve written many law journal articles in places such as Harvard, Penn, Michigan, Notre Dame and so on. And my briefs have been cited by justices Alito, Stevens and Pryor on the second amendment issues and I’ve been cited many circuit courts of appeal, and the 7th circuit described my scholarship as a model of the correct historical and textual analysis of leading of the second amendment. And I’m currently representing almost all of Colorado’s sheriffs before the 10th circuit court of appeals and the federal civil rights lawsuit based on the anti-gun laws which were pushed through the Colorado legislature by the Michael Bloomberg lobby in 2013.
Bob Ambrogi: Civil rights lawsuit, explain that to me.
David B. Kopel: We alleged that the ban on common standard magazines, which is up to 20 for handguns and up to 30 for long guns and the requirement that people can’t even loan firearms to each other unless they go to a gun store to process the loan and the return even for a four day loan, then the return after 4 days as if the people were buying a new gun out of the store’s inventory. Both of those violate the second amendment to the US Constitution, and in some respects, for certain litigants, also violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. And we succeeded so far in getting rid of two provisions in the 2013 law, which had the effect of actually prohibiting almost all magazines and which also made it impossible for owners of grandfathered magazines to, for example, take them to a gun store for repair or in emergencies such as a fire or flood safely store them with someone else.
Bob Ambrogi: Interesting. Laura, tell us a little bit more about the work that you do at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Laura Cutilletta: We were started back in 1993 after an assault weapon massacre at a law firm which took place in 101 California St. which is an office building in downtown San Francisco. And the lawyers that survived that incident or were the relatives and loved ones of the victims started this organization. And their thinking was they wanted to provide a legal response to the gun epidemic in this country. So they started an organization of lawyers and in some ways, the organization served as a law firm to the Gun Violence Prevention movement nationally. So we’re a national non profit. We provide expertise and information to activists across the country, legislators. We file amicus briefs in second amendment cases and we track legislation and litigation all throughout the year in all 50 states and all the second amendment cases.
Bob Ambrogi: So as mentioned earlier this month, President Obama announced that he would be taking executive action. There were a number of components to his announcement and what he laid out as what he planned to be doing. David, let’s start with your general reaction to what President Obama announced.
David B. Kopel: Well, I think it was in some respects much ado about nothing. It was successful in its political objective which was to distract public and media conversation away from ISIS and national security and to get it back to this culture war issue we’ve been debating for many years. I mean, he could have just as easily said we’re going to have new executive orders on gay marriage and abortion and ended up not doing much on that but it would have likewise consumed a lot of public attention.
Bob Ambrogi: You mean that there wasn’t a lot there? Is that what you’re suggesting?
David B. Kopel: Yeah, there is some potential there on some of the minor things that didn’t get much attention. But the big thing he talked about, which was the laws about people who sell guns, all he did was restate which has been the federal law since 1968. He put out a brochure from the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, which begins by saying it’s not legally binding. But which actually does provide an accurate explanation of federal law about who is required to have a license to sell a gun. Which, in short, means if you’re engaged in the business, you have to have a license, which is repetitive transactions for the principal purpose of livelihood or profit, and excludes occasional sales or the sale of all or part of the collection. And the law has never cared where the sale takes place in the sense that whether you sell out of a home based business or a retail gun store or at a gun show or you advertised on the internet. Regardless, if you’re engaged in the business, you have to have a federal firearms license to do those sales. And of course if you’re not engaged in the business, you may not be issued a license to do that. And the ATF guidance – not a binding guidance – provided some examples of that of different people in different scenarios and it accurately reflected what the law is, both in its text and intent and as affirmed in court cases. So I can’t criticized the president for accurately and forcefully restating existing law.
Bob Ambrogi: Laura, do you agree with that assessment of the President’s announcement? Was it essentially just a restatement of what the law already was or did you see or hear anything new in it?
Laura Cutilletta: Well, he took what was in case law, as David mentioned, and put it all together in one place in a document that provides guidance. So even though it does exist here and there in different cases, to put it all in one place and state this is the standard is probably something that will result in, more people getting federal firearms licenses which means more background checks. So we actually think it was a big step. We would have loved to have seen something more. We would have loved to have seen Congress close the background check loophole. So this is not anybody’s ideal situation to have to resort to executive action. But in the essence of action by Congress, there’s not a whole lot that the President can do. So we think it was a very important step and we think it will probably – like I said – resolve in more background checks which mean fewer guns sold to criminals and people with violent mental health histories.
Bob Ambrogi: There was a lot of talk in the days leading up to this about his conferring with the attorney general regarding the extent of his authority to take executive action on this issue. Laura, do you feel he could have gone farther or was your organization hoping he would go farther here? I heard you say you wished Congress could do more but was there more the President could have done?
Laura Cutilletta: No, I wouldn’t say that. I mean yes, maybe there were more things he could have done but we were very happy with what he did. We are not looking at what he didn’t do, we’re looking at what he did do and seeing some really good steps that he’s taken. We think that he did almost everything he could do. And again, without Congress taking action, there’s only so much you really can do as the President doing it unilaterally. Fortunately, many states have closed the background check loophole. 18 states have enacted their own state laws that require background checks prior to the sale by an unlicensed seller. And in some cases that’s through a permit, in some cases that’s a point of sale background check. So really what our organization focuses on is state law, because that’s where the movement is happening. That’s where action is happening and it’s a lot more likely to get things done through state legislature than through Congress.
Bob Ambrogi: David, do you have any concerns that the President – if I’m hearing it right, you don’t have any concerns that the President overstepped his authority here. You’re feeling that he essentially restated what the law was.
David B. Kopel: Well, I think not yet. I have two concerns. One is he said that the Social Security Administration is going to write a regulation which will say that if you’re a social security beneficiary and you appoint someone to be your financial representative – maybe you’re someone who’s a widow and you’ve never balanced a checkbook in your life so you appoint your adult son to receive your social security payments and manage things for you. That somehow is an admission that you under the Federal Gun Control Act have been adjudicated a mental defective, therefore are prohibited from possessing a firearm with a five year federal felony. That seems a gross violation of due process, not to mention the second amendment. And the second thing that concerns me is he essentially says he’s going to encourage federal procurement of so called smart guns. Which at this point in technology aren’t even close to being reliable enough for use in life or death self defense or other situations. And in fact, in some ways significantly increase dangers to law enforcement and military personnel. Because all of these things are essentially computer radio type devices. So if you can, for example, do radio gamut on a battlefield, you might be able to disarm an entire US unit. So I think it’s premature to start forcing the federal government or anyone else to buy these guns before they’ve been developed to the appropriate standards of the liability.
Bob Ambrogi: What do you mean by smart guns? Explain that to me.
David B. Kopel: The objective is to keep the gun from being used by somebody other than the authorized user and the original beneficiaries of this were supposed to be law enforcement officers. Because there were a lot of cases back in the 70’s or 80’s where a law enforcement officer typically carried their gun in an exposed belt holster. So somebody comes up from behind, snatches the gun away, and then all of a sudden the bad guy’s got the gun and standing two feet away from the law enforcement officer. So the theory was maybe you could put a palm print reader in the gun or something similar to that and that will allow only the authorized user to own the gun. It’s had a huge amount of corporate welfare from the federal government in some states to support it. They haven’t gotten there yet in terms of anything that anybody wants to buy – at least people who care about reliability. The challenges of putting a computer inches away from an environment which is full of explosions, vibrations, hot gases, particles and all of that, so far has not been overcome. That’s not to see they never will overcome it, but it hasn’t worked so far. The good thing for law enforcement officers is actually instead of redesigning guns, which is a big challenge, they’ve redesigned holsters. So now many law enforcement officers wear something called a retention holster, which to simplify, you can only draw the gun if you put your hand in a very particular angle and then press a release button or slide with a finger that’s exactly where it would be if you were drawing a gun from your own waist. But it wouldn’t work at an angle of say someone sneaking in from behind. That’s been a really constructive lower tech way we’ve reduced gun takeaways by bad guys against law enforcement. But the resistance amongst law enforcement to switch to smart guns is just enormous because of the reliability problems. Guns can misfire and because of mechanical problems, there’s already a risk that it might not work properly. And so you add any additional risk on top of that, that is something that gun users are very intensely against if they depend on the gun for anything critical, whether that’s hunting where you might get one shot in the ear in a two second window or self defense situations. I think one day smart guns will be popular among families who really don’t care about reliability because maybe they only want the gun for the backyard and they feel it may need an extra layer of safety to avoid gun misuse by a child, for example. I think that’s the market for those people. Reliability isn’t that important and they like the extra technology but it’s not there yet in terms of reliable products that the people want.
Laura Cutilletta: So, Bob, I’d like to respond to that. There is already a company selling these guns and it’s a device that has a wristband. And if you’re wearing the wristband and you are a certain proximity from the gun, it will fire, otherwise it won’t. And mainly, when we talk about these kinds of guns, it’s about protecting children in the home because 73% of children aged 9 and under report that they know the location of their parents’ firearms. So this is a big problem, not just for unintentional shootings, but as kids get older, teen suicides are much more prevalent where guns exist in the home. So an owner authorized firearm is very important for the safety of children living in homes with guns. And even though this technology has been around for a long time, it’s been studied for a very long time, the opposition from the gun lobby has been so intense, there have been boycotts of manufacturers that work on this technology and there have been death threats to people that try to sell these kinds of guns. And the aggressiveness that you must face if you want to work on this kind of technology or sale, these kinds of guns is so strong that people actually shy away and they are afraid to get involved with these kinds of guns that could save thousands of lives.
David B. Kopel: Let’s be a little more realistic here about that-
Bob Ambrogi: David, let me cut back to you in just a second, we’re going to just take a quick break here at this point and I’ll pick up where we left off in just a moment. But stay with us, we will be back in just a few moments to talk more about President Barack Obama’s executive order on guns.
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Bob Ambrogi: Welcome back to Lawyer 2 Lawyer, this is Bob Ambrogi and with me today is David Kopel and Laura Cutilletta and we are talking about President Obama’s recent executive order on reducing gun violence and its impact under the law. David, I cut you off there, so did you want to say something more on the smart gun issue?
David B. Kopel: Sure. The only so called smart gun, which anybody’s attempted to market is made by this company called Armatix and it was only available in 22 caliber, which is essentially your last choice for self defense, it’s a very small round. And when it got into the hands of testers, it performed miserably. Its lack of reliability, not firing what it’s supposed to was disastrous, nobody would want this. But on the other hand, it’s a free country. If you want to sell a gun like that, go ahead. But the reason why consumers and anybody else who cares about the second amendment criticized Armatix for trying to come to market was because there’s a law in New Jersey which says as soon as there’s a smart gun on the market, that sets in motion something that will then prohibit the sale of all normal guns. If you appeal that New Jersey law, which is I think a pretty clear violation of Heller in that it’s a comprehensive ban on every normal handgun, one because of the availability of the exterior Armatix gun, then people would be more willing to stock it. But any gun store that sells it, the consumers are going to say, “Look, you put this in your store, you have just imposed a comprehensive handgun ban on normal guns for all the people in New Jersey.” And a consumer who supports second amendment rights would never want to buy from a store like that. So if you get rid of this ridiculous New Jersey law, then companies can try to come to market with whatever they’ve got and convince consumers they want it. But I predict the demand is still going to be miniscule until they produce guns that are of much higher quality than this joke from Armatix.
Laura Cutilletta: Well, I have two things to say about that. First of all, the New Jersey law is being amended. It’s already passed – I believe – the assembly by the same sponsor that brought the bill that became the law that you’re referring to. So the amended version is going to require that people selling guns have to stock a personalized handgun option. It would not ban existing non personalized handguns. So the law is going to be amended, and so that will give an opportunity to find out if David’s right about whether the gun lobby will back off and stop threatening people that sell these guns and actually allow people to buy safer guns. And the other thing I wanted to mention is that part of the executive actions announced by the president were to increase research in development efforts into this technology. And that’s one of the problems is there hasn’t been enough research into this. If you know you’re going to be boycotted for trying to manufacture this, there’s not a lot of incentive to develop a better gun that is owner authorized. So hopefully, with increased R&D going into this, maybe we will see a better product.
Bob Ambrogi: Well, Laura what’s your-
David B. Kopel: Well, let me just say, our-
Bob Ambrogi: Just to move off the smartgun issue for a minute, one of the other issues that we’ve talked about in this announcement you alluded to earlier was this reporting of mental health information. David, you talked about the social security aspect of that. Laura, what’s your organization’s position on this sort of enhanced reporting of mental health information as part of the way to address gun violence?
Laura Cutilletta: Well, violently, mentally ill people are already prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms by federal law. But the federal government can’t require that states send the records to the FBI to be included in the background check database. So the state’s have to do that voluntarily. And until recently, states have really been terrible about sending these crucial records to the FBI. And it has gotten better since the Virginia Tech incident, which really brought this issue a light. That’s when people started looking to see how many records were actually in the database. But there’s still a lot more that can be done. States still don’t report as many records as they should and it makes absolutely no sense to have a law in the books that says if you have a certain mental health record, you can’t possess a gun in this country and then not have the records that would be relevant to find out who those people are.
Bob Ambrogi: Is better reporting an important goal in addressing gun violence from your perspective?
Laura Cutilletta: The reporting is absolutely an important goal. So this is how you enforce the laws on the books. This is what the NRA has been saying over and over for at least a decade. We need to enforce the laws on the books, we don’t need new laws. Enforce the laws on the books. That’s exactly what this would do. The law is already there, the federal law has been there for a while. A way to enforce thaw law is to put the record in the system so we can find out who has these mental health histories.
Bob Ambrogi: David, are you going to say something on that?
David B. Kopel: Sure, and I would agree with most of that provided we stick with what the federal law says, which is it’s when somebody has been adjudicated as a mental defective or mentally incompetent. So if you have somebody as civilly committed for a certain time because of mental health issues, then as she correctly says, those are the records that should be submitted to the National Criminal Background Check system. We want to be careful, though, because there have been a lot of abuses of that where instead of reporting adjudications, they sometimes just report that somebody’s getting voluntary treatment or that confidential doctor patient information, things like that. That’s why the mental health providers are very wary of a relative thing that President Obama did with his executive actions, which is essentially to eliminate the HIPAA, patient privacy protections related to mental health. And the providers are very concerned that if somebody will discourage people from going to mental health providers. It’s one thing to go to a psychologist because you have a problem, and that’s not the same thing as having been adjudicated as a mental defective. And we’ve had a lot of problems with people who are just getting treatment and not been acting in any dangerous way but they get put in this system as a prohibited person, even though there was no adjudication, no due process, no neutral decision maker to hear both sides of the story. But as long as you protect due process, I think it’s absolutely right that when we have genuine adjudications that those should go into the records. And, of course, it’s also important – there’s a case before the Sixth Circuit right now – that when somebody gets better and stays better, it doesn’t function as a lifetime felony prohibition. The Sixth Circuit case has a guy who had a very short term commitment because he was suicidal in the 1970’s after his wife left him for his best friend and stole all his money. Say he was in for a few weeks, got better and has been fine since then. And there’s no process in his state of Michigan for him to ever be allowed to own a gun again. That’s an unfair and a violation of due process rights.
Bob Ambrogi: So we all saw the frustration that President Obama expressed in announcing these executive orders and I suspect that there are a lot of people in the country who share the feeling that something needs to be done and whatever the laws are now aren’t working. So what should be done going forward? Laura, you said that you’re pushing more on the state level than the federal level, but what can be done?
Laura Cutilletta: First of all, I’d like to mention that a lot is being done. I think there’s a narrative out there that nothing’s happening and nothing’s getting better. Look what happened at Newtown, a horrible massacre and still nothing gets done. But actually, this is really not the case at all. Since Newtown, there have been over 100 marked new gun laws enacted in 40 states. And one of the most popular laws that have been passed in states is domestic violence laws. So these are laws that would keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers. We’ve also seen background check laws enacted. There are ballot initiatives that have been enacted and that are going to be on the ballot in 2016. So all kinds of things are happening. In addition to offensive things like domestic violence and background checks, there’s a lot of defense at work happening in the state level. So the gun law pushed a bill in 21 states in 2015 that would allow a person to carry a concealed, loaded weapon in public without a permit. So that was clearly a huge priority for the gun lobby. And these bills were stopped in 15 of the states. Unfortunately, they were enacted in a few of the states, so 3 states. So we can’t only focus on the offensive work. We have to be on the defensive at all times because the gun lobby is pushing these kinds of bills. They’re pushing guns on university and college campuses. They’re pushing guns even in K-12 schools. They’re trying to repeal background check laws that are on the books. So we’re working on both fronts – offensive, defensive, we’re working on ballot initiatives, and there is a whole host of things that can be done to make the public safer in the states.
Bob Ambrogi: David, what’s your perspective on this? What needs to be done that’s not being done to control gun violence in this country?
David B. Kopel: Well, first of all, we have made tremendous progress on this issue. Compared to the early 1990’s, our rate of firearms murders has fallen by about half and our rate of violent gun crime has fallen even more. That is huge progress. There’s not a lot of social issues where we’ve made as much progress, makes you look at the rate of gun accidents compared to their peak in the early 1970’s. They’re done by 88% among adults and 92% among children. So you’d be hard pressed to find many social issues which we’ve made such tremendous progress.
Bob Ambrogi: To you attribute that to changes in the law or to something else?
David B. Kopel: It’s a combination of things. On the crime side, we’ve certainly gotten tougher about sentencing repeat violent offenders and we included gun criminals. There’s probably some more progress in some areas on that that needs to be done like Chicago, but that’s been one thing that’s been helpful. There’s been tremendous consumer education on the safety issue. The National Shooting Sports Foundation – which is a trade association for the industry – has this program they do with the lieutenant governors and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives called Operation Child Safe where they give away free gun locks to people. The NRA has a Smoky the Bear kind of character named Eddie Eagle who teaches gun safety to younger children and that won an award from the National Safety Council. So there’s all kinds of fronts of activity going on. And this is at the same time when the gun supply in the United States has gone up tremendously. We’ve got over 120 million new guns just in the last 20 years. So that tells you that when we think about genuine gun safety, it’s wrong to think of this like pro gun, anti gun dichotomy, because we’ve demonstrated you can have more guns – which is pro gun, I guess – but at the same time, we can also have much better safety as in reduced rates of homicides and accidents. So we should be thinking about what particular laws help or don’t help. And I think part of the limitation of the post Newtown legislative push was it was very hard to come up with something that actually related in a serious way when you examine the facts to that infamous crime or others. As press secretary Carney admitted a few weeks ago after the president reeled off this litany of infamous gun crimes, which of these would have been prevented by any of what you’re proposing and he couldn’t name anything. I think we’re also coming to a consensus that these gun free zones are a magnet for bad guys, including terrorists. We have almost in every state, that says if you’re a law abiding trained adult who passes a fingerprint based background check – which can take months with all the records they look at – and a safety training class, we give you a permit which says you can carry a gun everywhere in the state, basically. If we do that, why do we make some places off limits to those people, including a college campuses for the adults on the campus or a parking lot at a hospital and so on. Why create these special zones of vulnerability? Because what we see is, if you think about the infamous mass shootings that have taken place, virtually all of them happen to take place in these so called gun free zones. A real gun free zone with metal detectors like you have at the airport or some government buildings, that’s fine. But when it’s just a sign, all you do is essentially make the law abiding people easy prey for the people who are willing to violate the law.
Laura Cutilletta: The one thing I will point out is that he mentions that gun crime has gone down. And a perfect example, California ranks on our own study as the number one state with the gun death laws in the country. And many of those laws were passed in the last few decades. California went from having the 35th highest gun death rates to having the 9th highest gun death rate during that same time period. So even though gun deaths are falling overall across the country, California’s has fallen at about twice the rate as the rest of the country. And it has been enacting strong gun laws all along the way.
Bob Ambrogi: We are actually passed the end of our time but we have a few more moments to wrap up. So before we finish the show, I’d like to just give each of you an opportunity to share each of your closing thoughts and also let our listeners know how they can follow up with you if they’d like to do that. So, Laura, since I just cut you off, let me give you the first opportunity to give us your final thoughts.
Laura Cutilletta: Sure. So you can reach us through our website, which is SmartGunLaws.org, and on our website you can find all of our publications which include our scorecard – which I just mentioned – which ranks all of the states in order and gives them a letter grade and then it compares the state to the gun death rate. It compares the grades to the gun death rate in those states. And we see a very strong correlation between states with strong gun laws and lower gun death rates. We also go into a lot of detail about all of the many different types of common sense policies that can be enacted at the state level and we detail which states already have those laws and all of those nuances of those laws in each state. So I would encourage if you’re interested in this issue to go to our website to learn more.
Bob Ambrogi: Thank you very much, and David Kopel, your closing thoughts.
David B. Kopel: I’ll give you a half-hearted endorsement to the law center’s website because even though I think a lot of their social science has serious flaws in it, their compilations of what the laws currently are in the various states is excellent and I’ve in the past referred journalists to that as a good resource. So I commend them for doing a good job on that. When we think about gun control, there’s such a tendency for people to go to one corner or the other, either you’re pro gun or you’re anti gun. The true answer is in the middle, and that doesn’t mean just half of what each side says, but it recognizes that guns in the right hands substantially enhance public safety. And guns in the wrong hands are terribly dangerous to public safety. So the appropriate gun laws are the ones which really have a good effect in taking guns out of the wrong hands without infringing the rights of law abiding citizens to self defense with firearms and other legitimate activities. And my website is DavidKopel.org and I’m also on Twitter, @DavidKopel.
Bob Ambrogi: Thank you very much. We’ve been talking about President Obama’s executive actions on gun control earlier this month with David Kopel, associate adjunct professor of advanced constitutional law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and research director at the Independence Institute. And also with Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Thanks to both of you for taking the time to be with us today and for sharing your perspectives on this issue. I really appreciate it.
Laura Cutilletta: Thanks, thanks for having me.
David B. Kopel: Thank you.
Bob Ambrogi: And that does it for today’s episode of Lawyer 2 Lawyer. Please be sure to join us next time for another great episode. Remember, when you want legal, think Lawyer 2 Lawyer.
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