With its December 11 ruling striking down a Chicago law forbidding individuals from carrying guns in public, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit delivered the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) a major victory—and handed the group's lawyer, Virginia litigator Alan Gura, yet another big win.
For Gura, a one-time Sidley Austin associate who is now the co-owner of Gura and Possessky, the Second Circuit ruling followed earlier triumphs in a pair of landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases: District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 and McDonald v. Chicago in 2010. By persuading the Supreme Court to uphold the rights of individuals to own firearms in Heller and McDonald—cases that found the Court weighing the scope of the Second Amendment for the first time in nearly 70 years—Gura burnished his reputation as the gun-rights movement's go-to advocate.
"He's clearly proven to be the top Second Amendment lawyer by virtue of the fact that he argued and won both Heller and McDonald," says Cato Institute chairman Robert Levy, whose organization financed the Heller litigation and hired Gura to make its case.
Now, in the wake of the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, Gura's specialized skill is almost certain to face fresh tests.
Led by President Obama, officials across the political spectrum reacted to the killing of 26 people—20 of them small children—at Sandy Hook Elementary School by pushing gun-control to the top of the country's legislative agenda. New York moved swiftly to enact bipartisan gun legistlation viewed widely as the most restrictive in the nation, and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law on January 15. The next day, the president said he was issuing 23 weapons-related executive orders—which, among things, would make it easier for the federal government to subject potential gun buyers to background checks—and called on Congress to pass an assault-weapons ban.
With the political climate shifting, Gura—who, according to the SAF website, is already acting as lead or co-counsel on 12 cases for the foundation—appears ready for the legal battles to come.
Appearing at a January 9 Cato Institute symposium held to discuss former New York Times reporter Craig Whitney's Living with Guns, A Liberal's Case for the Second Amendment, Gura, who declined The Am Law Daily's interview request—made the patriotic case for protecting gun owners' rights.
"The idea of civilian gun ownership is a positive statement of who we are, not that we're paranoid or fearful, but that we trust ourselves with freedom and to be responsible," he said while expressing his belief that the judiciary is the ultimate check on the kind of legislative excess he sees in efforts to, among other things, restrict the right to carry firearms in public and ownership of certain types of guns. "It is absolutely the job of judges to strike down every stupid unconstitutional thing that the government can come up with to violate people's rights." . . .