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DC – GUN POLITICS – Kamala Harris on the Second Amendment

In 2008, Kamala Harris signed on to a District Attorneys’ friend-of-the-court brief in D.C. v. Heller, the Supreme Court’s leading Second Amendment case. Of course, she may have changed her views on the Second Amendment since then (perhaps in light of precedents such as Heller); and she may have different personal views than the ones she expressed as a D.A. (though note that she signed on to the brief as a signatory, and not just as a lawyer for the signatories). But this brief likely tells us something about her views on the Second Amendment. [1.] To begin with, the brief urged the Court to reverse the decision below, and thus to reinstate D.C.’s handgun ban. Thus, Harris’s view in that case was that the Second Amendment doesn’t preclude total bans on handgun possession. [2.] The brief also came at a time when the great majority of federal courts (including the Ninth Circuit, which covered Harris’s jurisdiction, San Francisco) viewed the Second Amendment as not securing any meaningful individual right of members of the public to personally keep and bear arms. Rather, those courts viewed the Second Amendment as endorsing (to quote the then-existing Ninth Circuit precedent, which the brief itself later cited), the “collective rights” model, [which] asserts that the Second Amendment right to “bear arms” guarantees the right of the people to maintain effective state militias, but does not provide any type of individual right to own or possess weapons. Under this theory of the amendment, the federal and state governments have the full authority to enact prohibitions and restrictions on the use and possession of firearms, subject only to generally applicable constitutional constraints, such as due process, equal protection, and the like. And the brief supported that majority view among federal courts: Affirming the D.C. Circuit decision, which rejected the collective rights model and recognized an individual right to own guns, could inadvertently call into question the well settled Second Amendment principles under which countless state and local criminal firearms laws have been upheld by courts nationwide. Thus, Harris’s view in that case was thus that the “collective rights” view of the Second Amendment was correct, since that was the “settled Second Amendment principle[]” in lower federal courts at the time.  [full article]

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