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Is the Right to Bear Arms an Anachronism?

In the biggest decision in decades on whether the Constitution’s Second Amendment creates a personal right to keep and bear arms, a District of Columbia federal appeals court recently struck down the District’s ban against having a pistol or an operational rifle, even at home for self-defense. If the district seeks Supreme Court review, it could lead to the most important gun control decision in history. Meanwhile, the mass murder at Virginia Tech University stoked the perennially simmering debate whether stronger gun controls could prevent such horrors—or make them more likely.

On June 11, the Brookings Institution continued its Judicial Issues Forum series with a discussion of the practical and constitutional arguments for and against various forms of gun control. Panelists included Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center; Randy Barnett, Carmack Waterhouse professor of legal theory at the Georgetown University Law Center; Jens Ludwig, professor of public policy at Georgetown University and nonresident senior fellow at Brookings; and Benjamin Wittes, guest scholar at Brookings.

Stuart Taylor, Jr., a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings and a writer for National Journal and Newsweek, moderated the panel.

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Randy Barnett

Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory, Georgetown University Law Center

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