University of Pittsburgh
March 16, 2008

Pitt Law Professor Calls Second Amendment Supreme Court Case, to Be Argued Tomorrow, "One of the Blockbuster Cases of the Term"

Supreme Court will decide whether District of Columbia can ban handguns
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-David Harris, University of Pittsburgh professor of law and a leading national authority on racial profiling, calls the Second Amendment case on whether the District of Columbia can ban handguns that is to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow "one of the blockbuster cases of the term." Harris says this is the first time the Supreme Court will talk about the Second Amendment "right to bear arms" since the 1930s.

According to Harris, the court must decide whether the Second Amendment espouses a collective or an individual right. He says that among the possible outcomes is a decision by the court that the amendment is completely individual, which could throw out all gun regulation; or, on the other hand, the court could rule that the amendment is collective, allowing states and the federal government to regulate guns as much as they wish.

Another interesting wrinkle, says Harris, is the split in the Bush Administration over the case. The solicitor general, Paul D. Clement, who speaks for the administration before the Supreme Court, thinks the case should be sent back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, while Vice President Dick Cheney feels the Court of Appeals made the right decision.

In the end, Harris believes the Supreme Court will take a middle position and say that "the right to bear arms is an individual right, but some amount of reasonable regulation by the states and federal government is allowed."

Harris is an expert in national security and the law, including homeland security and issues surrounding immigration, as well as on police behavior and regulation and on law enforcement. He is the author of "Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work" (The New Press, 2002) and "Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing" (The New Press, 2005).

Harris has appeared frequently in the national media, testified before the U.S. Senate and many state legislative bodies. In 1996, he served as a member of the Civil Liberties Advisory Board to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.