Alumni Short
Law School Hosts Debate on the Future of Firearms Law Ithaca, NEW YORK, February 1, 2013

“I think you need patent counsel on the death ray,” Alan Gura advised Cornell Law’s Michael Dorf.

The death ray, an invention proposed by Dorf, was merely hypothetical, but it was meant to shed light on a real and serious issue: the standards by which courts determine what weapons may reasonably be prohibited. This and other aspects of gun control laws were examined by Dorf and Gura over the course of a debate hosted by the Cornell Federalist Society and the Second Amendment Club, which took place at the Law School on January 29.

Gura is a partner and co-founder of Gura & Possessky, P.L.L.C. He graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in Government in 1992 before earning his law degree from Georgetown University. Prior to founding his firm, he served as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of California, as Counsel to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee and as a litigation associate for the Washington offices of Sidley Austin. Gura successfully litigated D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, two landmark Supreme Court cases on the Second Amendment.

Michael Dorf, Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law, has written several books and dozens of law review articles on constitutional law and related subjects. He served as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and as amicus curiae in Supreme Court cases Fisher v. Univ. of Texas (currently pending) and Grutter v. Bollinger. He was the main author of the AALS amicus brief in support of the winning side in the 2010 Supreme Court case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. Dorf writes a bi-weekly column for Justia's free web magazine Verdict and posts several times per week on his blog, Dorf on Law.

The debaters began by discussing what may be the next major firearms law issue adjudicated by the Supreme Court: whether the Second Amendment guarantees the right to carry firearms for self-defense outside the home. Both experts predicted that the court would uphold the right, with certain restrictions. Said Dorf, “I think we’re agreed about the likely outcome of the Supreme Court, I’m just not sure that’s the right outcome.”

Responding to each other as well as questions from the audience, the two dug into the implications of conflicting approaches to constitutional interpretation, touching not only on death rays but also on medieval English law, the American Revolution, the ratification process of the U.S. Constitution, and the centralization of U.S. military power.