Kopel brief in McDonald v. Chicago

Available on SSRN. (This is the abstract page. To read the full brief, click “Download,” then on the new screen click the button for which city’s server you will use for the download.) The brief is filed on behalf of the two major police training organizations in the United States: the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) and the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI). Additional law enforcement amici are the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, Texas Police Chiefs Association, and Law Enforcement Alliance of America. The brief is also joined by the Congress of Racial Equality, the Claremont Institute, the Independence Institute, and several scholars.

The brief presents new empirical research, conducted by Prof. Carl Moody of William & Mary, about the criminological results of changes in handgun ban policies. In 1965, South Carolina repealed its 1902 ban on handgun sales. We show that, relative to the rest of the United States, South Carolina suffered no statistically significant increase in crime rates. In 1983, Chicago’s handgun ban went into effect. Chicago crime rates rose immediately and significantly. Post-ban Chicago is much more dangerous, relative to the 24 other largest U.S. cities, than it was before the ban. The differences are very large, and sustained, and the possibility that they are due only to random fluctuations in less than 1 in 100,000. During the 32 years studied, Chicago was the only top-25 city with a handgun ban during any part of the period.

Thanks to my hardworking intern Joshua Austin of Denver University Law School, the brief also presents data from 1996-2008 showing that Chicago’s rate of police homicides is 79% greater than the U.S. average, and that Chicago’s police homicide problem is the sixth-worst among large American cities.

The brief addresses various claims that were made by amici in the Seventh Circuit in support of the ban, including: that Chicago’s population density is a unique reason to ban handguns in the home; that enforcement of the Second Amendment would prevent the use of NYC-style stop-and-frisk tactics of gangsters who are carrying illegal guns; or that NY state case law supports handgun prohibition.

Part V surveys eleven Supreme Court cases, from 1893-1921, which expressly vindicated the right of armed self-defense.

Finally, Part VI, which relies on input from the police trainers, explains why handguns are often the superior choice for home defense, especially in an urban setting. As the brief explains, there is no perfect gun for every situation, and the choice of any particular gun necessarily involves trade-offs. First Amendment cases, as well as Meyer v. Nebraska, teach us that aldermen and similar officials do not have the authority to micro-manage how individual families choose to exercise their constitutional rights. “A fortiori, the decision of parents, and other law-abiding individuals, to choose the best tool to defend their lives and their families is an inherent, fundamental, and natural liberty.”


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