Big law firms and anti-gun activists team up against the Second Amendment

  • 12 December 2016
  • NormanL
Big law firms and anti-gun activists team up against the Second Amendment

Foes of the Second Amendment are looking for new strategies to advance their cause in light of November's election results. One approach they think has merit? Teaming up with deep pocketed law firms to challenge state and local laws on gun rights:

After the Orlando nightclub massacre and a string of other mass shootings, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Covington & Burling; Arnold & Porter; and four other prominent law firms formed a coalition with gun control groups that until now have worked largely on their own. Together, the firms are committing tens of millions of dollars in free legal services from top corporate lawyers who typically bill clients $1,000 an hour or more.

This effort is highly unusual in its scale. Although law firms often donate time to individual causes, and some firms have worked on gun control on a piecemeal basis, the number and the prominence of the firms involved in the new coalition are unheard-of for modern-day big law. Other firms are expected to join in the coming months.

It is also the first time in decades that rival corporate law firms, more accustomed to beating back regulation than championing it, have joined forces to file litigation nationwide around such a polarizing social issue as guns. The effort harks back to the civil rights era, when President John F. Kennedy summoned 250 top lawyers to the White House and enlisted their help in fighting segregation.

Just as significant, the gun coalition plans to pursue new legal strategies to avoid some previous pitfalls.

Rather than fighting the political headwinds, the coalition is focusing on courts and state regulatory agencies, among the few places where they might still gain some traction. The coalition is drafting lawsuits and preparing regulatory complaints that could be announced as soon as next month, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the nonprofit advocacy groups that helped form the coalition, along with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brennan Center for Justice, a legal think tank at New York University School of Law.

On one front, the coalition will seek to overturn state laws that have gone largely unchallenged, including new policies that force businesses to allow guns to be carried on their property. The group also plans to mount the first formal challenges to congressional restrictions on publishing government data on gun violence. Taking a page from the fight against big tobacco two decades ago, it will seek the help of regulators to challenge what it views as the gun industry’s attempts to stifle competition.

“This coalition brings together more resources, more brainpower and more lawyers dedicated to making our clients and our nation safer,” said Charlie Lifland, the O’Melveny & Myers partner leading the firm’s work with the coalition.

We are amused that all this is compared, without irony, to the fight for civil rights. The Second Amendment is a constitutional right. But curtailing it is perfectly acceptable to these folks.

They are free to spend their time and resources fighting issues in court. They will be opposed by an array of gun rights supporters who are just as practiced, and just as determined, to protect the recent gains they have made in the political and legal arenas.