Law Center Provides Testimony for Senator Durbin’s Stand Your Ground Hearing

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Today, Senator Durbin held a hearing to review stand your ground laws nationwide. The Law Center was proud to be invited to share our written testimony outlining our research and analysis of these dangerous laws.

As Senator Durbin said this morning, “Whatever the motivations were behind the passage of these laws, it is clear that these laws often go too far in encouraging confrontations to escalate into deadly violence…They are resulting in unnecessary tragedies, and they are diminishing accountability under the justice system.” We couldn’t agree more. Research into so-called “stand your ground” laws – also known as “shoot first” laws – provides insight into these deadly policies.

As outlined in the our written testimony, shoot first laws significantly threaten public safety because they frustrate the ability of law enforcement to prosecute criminals, encourage vigilante behavior, and deprive victims of remedies. Because such laws are most dangerous when coupled with weak laws governing the carrying of concealed weapons in public, Congress should avoid enacting any new federal legislation that would force states to recognize concealed weapons permits issued in other states.

Read the Law Center’s written testimony for the stand your ground law hearing.

See our shoot first policy summary for more on stand your ground laws nationwide.

The Second Amendment and President Obama’s Proposals to Prevent Gun Violence

Since President Obama announced his support for laws requiring universal background checks on all gun buyers, banning military-style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines, and punishing gun traffickers, there has been significant discussion about the constitutionality of these proposals under the Second Amendment. In order to move forward on real change to our nation’s gun laws, it’s vitally important that legislators understand that the president’s proposed reforms are completely constitutional and are critical to stopping our nation’s gun violence epidemic.

Today, a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence: Protecting Our Communities While Respecting the Second Amendment.” In written testimony submitted to the subcommittee, our Legal Director, Juliet Leftwich, discussed how the Second Amendment presents no obstacle to President Obama’s proposals. The testimony explained that although the U.S. Supreme Court held in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects the right of a law-abiding, responsible citizen to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense, the president’s proposals are consistent with the Supreme Court’s decisions and the decisions of courts that have evaluated Second Amendment challenges since Heller.

Download Juliet Leftwich’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee here.

Additionally, the Center for American Progress today released a memo coauthored by the Law Center’s Executive Director, Robyn Thomas, on the constitutionality of the proposals endorsed by the president. The memo concludes that “many forms of firearm regulation remain constitutional, including laws to prevent firearm possession by criminals and limitations on the possession of dangerous and unusual weapons. The measures endorsed by President Obama and proposed by Congress are safely within these confines and reflect the sort of reasonable regulation that the Supreme Court endorsed in Heller and has accepted in a host of other constitutional contexts.”

Download the Center for American Progress/Law Center memo on the constitutionality of gun laws here.

Senate Judiciary Hearing on Gun Violence:
An Important Step Forward for America


Today marked an important step forward for our country, as the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee met to begin the discussion in Congress about gun violence in America. At the hearing, Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly advocated for smart solutions, like requiring background checks with all gun sales. Other panelists, however, suggested that we simply need more guns in our schools and in our communities.

The good news is that the Judiciary Committee reports to YOU. As panelist Baltimore County Chief of Police Jim Johnson, Chair of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, said today:

Generations of Americans, including our youngest ones, are depending on you to ensure they will grow up and fulfill their roles in the great human experience. None of us can fail them.

I urge you to follow the will of the American public and stand with law enforcement to enact these common-sense public safety measures. 

It is time for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hear from you. Tell them that we need these sensible measures to keep our communities safe from gun violence:

  1. a criminal background check with every gun sale;
  2. a ban on weapons of war like assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines; and
  3. a gun trafficking law to make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute criminals.

Call the Senate Judiciary Committee and tell them that you support these smart solutions to curb gun violence now. Then share this post with your friends and family.

Majority Office
Phone: 202-224-7703

Minority Office 
Phone: 202-224-5225

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