Transcript: Professor David Kopel’s testimony on gun control before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of testimony by David Kopel, Adjunct Professor of Advanced Constitutional Law, Denver University, Strum College of Law, at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence on Jan. 30, 2013: 

…I think to continue the themes that Capt. [Mark] Kelly so eloquently spoken about, gun rights and gun control don’t have to be cultural war enemies. Properly-conceived they can work together and reinforce each other.

It’s important to recognize that the Second Amendment is not absolute any more than the First Amendment is. It certainly has an absolute core that can’t be violated under any circumstances but that doesn’t prohibit all firearms controls…

And likewise, gun controls don’t violate the Second Amendment if they are constructed so they don’t violate the rights of law-abiding citizens and they actually do something constructive, significant, and effective to protect law-abiding citizens.

Capt. Kelly talked about the matrix of failure. Twenty years ago, I testified before this committee – some of the Senators are still here – about one thing that turned out to be part of that matrix of failure, and that was the ban on the so-called assault weapons. I warned during that testimony then that it was based not on the function of guns or how fast they fired or how powerful they were but on superficial, cosmetic characteristics and accessories.

As part of the compromise that eventually led to that bill being mistakenly passed by Congress, the bill had a 10-year sunset in it and required that the Department of Justice supervise a study of the effectiveness of that law…

The people that carried out that study were chosen by Attorney General [Janet] Reno’s Department of Justice. They did several interim studies and then a final study and they concluded that the law had done nothing. It had not saved lives. It had not reduced the bullets that were fired in crimes. It had been a failure. It had – to some minor degree – switched the types of guns that were used in crimes so you’d have guns with one name instead of another name. But it didn’t reduce crime overall.

And indeed, it was a dangerous bill in the sense that so much political attention was distracted by the focus on this that it took public attention away from debate on measures that might have been more constructive and life-saving.

Today, police and law-abiding citizens shoot semi-automatic handguns and rifles, such as the AR-15, for the same reason. They’re often the best choice for lawful defense of self and others. To assert that such firearms and their standard capacity factory magazines are only for mass murder are truly to libel law-abiding citizens and the many law enforcement officers who choose these guns not for hunting, not for collecting but for the purpose for which police officers always carry firearms – for the lawful defense of self and others.

Great Britain shows the perils of gun confiscation that some people have proposed. It has a higher violent crime rate than the United States and an especially high rate of home invasion burglaries.

Congress has repeatedly outlawed gun registration because of the accurate recognition that in other countries and in the United States – in New York City – gun registration has been used as a tool for confiscation. These 1941, 1986 and 1993 Congressional statutes are one way gun rights can be protected against future abuses.

Unfortunately, the bills about universal background checks that have been proposed in recent Congresses with the support of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have often have provisions in them for gun registration and for many violations of the civil liberties of law-abiding persons, such as allowing gun bans for people who are accused but acquitted of drug crimes.

Universal background checks should be available. It was a wise move by President [Barack] Obama in his Jan. 16th press conference to begin changes in federal regulations and their interpretation to allow private sellers to access the background check system via federally-licensed firearms dealers. Many people will choose to take advantage of that and I commend them.

But mandated universal checks can only be enforceable if there is universal gun registration, and we know that universal gun registration in every country in the world where it’s existed has been a serious peril to gun ownership.

Universal gun registration was imposed by Canada in 1995 and was later repealed in 2012 by the Canadian Parliament because it was such a fiasco.

If we want to save lives right now – not with constructive reforms that might do some goods in the future – there is only one thing that will stem the next copycat killer and that is lawful armed self-defense in the schools, not only by armed guards but also by teachers.

Utah provides a successful model. There, a teacher who has a permit to carry – after a background check and a safety training class – everywhere else in the state is not prohibited from carrying at the schools.

Gun prohibition lobbies come up with all kinds of fantastic scenarios about what the harms these would cause. Teachers will shoot each other or threaten students or students will steal the guns though we’ve had this policy in Utah for many years and we’ve never had a single problem and, quite notably, we’ve never had an attack on a Utah school.

If you want to save lives, armed defense in the schools is the immediate and best choice while other constructive solutions make take longer to have an effect.

Thank you.


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3 Comments on “Transcript: Professor David Kopel’s testimony on gun control before the Senate Judiciary Committee

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