Mason Law Alumnus Levy Victorious in Landmark Second Amendment Ruling

Mason Law alumnus Robert A. Levy (’94) has something to celebrate with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller, which declared unconstitutional D.C.’s strict ban on handgun ownership in effect for over 30 years and affirmed for the first time the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to individual ownership of firearms.


Levy, a Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, is the mastermind of a case that will go down in legal history. Nearly six years ago, Levy, who is neither a gun owner nor a Second Amendment litigator, became the financier and driving force behind an effort to overturn D.C.’s handgun ban as unconstitutional, bringing together public interest lawyer Clark M. Neilly III, lead counsel Alan Gura, and six carefully selected plaintiffs to mount the challenge. Eventually Dick Anthony Heller, a security guard denied registry of a gun, became the sole plaintiff.


Levy’s 2003 lawsuit brought about a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to strike down the District’s gun law. Heller’s subsequent argument before the Supreme Court produced the court’s first decision concerning gun laws since 1939 and settled a question of the Second Amendment’s intent that had been hotly debated for over 200 years.


Sharing the media spotlight with Levy this week were a number of Mason Law professors who were connected with the case in various ways, including Professor Michael Krauss, co-author of an amicus brief, who appeared on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, and Professor Joyce Malcolm, whose book, To Keep and Bear Arms, was quoted several times in the high court’s majority opinion.


Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment Nelson Lund, also the author of an amicus brief in the case, appeared on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered with Nina Totenburg, Southern California Public Radio, and CNN’s The Glenn Beck Program, along with litigator Alan Gura, to comment on the court’s decision. Asked how the court could have allowed the District’s gun law to stand for over 30 years, Lund replied, “I’m not sure why they would let it stand for so long, but for a very long time, all of the lower courts, the lower federal courts accepted the view that this was a kind of collective right that applied only to people who were serving in a government-organized military organization.”


“And it really is a great day for the Constitution that the court has thoroughly debunked that reading of the Constitution and adopted the position that this is not only an individual right, but that the core of it is the right to individual self-defense,” Lund continued.


Read the opinion  


Related coverage of interest:
Robert A. Levy

Interview with Bob Levy on The Glenn Beck Program
Professor Nelson Lund on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered
Professor Michael Krauss on National Public Radio’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show
Professor Nelson Lund's Comments on the Case