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GLENN: Okay, Alan Gura is on the phone. Yesterday they announced — Alan, are you there?
GURA: Yes, I am. Thanks for having me, Glenn.
GLENN: You bet. You argued this case in front of the Supreme Court.
GLENN: So you won the D.C. gun ban overturning and then you went and you took on Chicago. Now, we know what D.C., what happened in D.C. But out of Chicago this was, of course, a big white monopolistic sort of company that wanted to make sure that they kept minorities down and wanted to put a whole bunch of guns into the city. That's basically what happened, right? (Sniffing).
GURA: What we were doing is we were making sure that people like Otis McDonald and Adam Orlov, people who live in the City of Chicago, a city that does have some amount of crime in it, are able to exercise their right of self‑defense.
GLENN: Hang on just a second. Tell me who Otis is. I thought it was a big corporation or some special interest group. Who's Otis?
GURA: Otis McDonald is a 76‑year‑old gentleman living in a fairly rough neighborhood in Chicago who just wants to have a handgun with which he can defend himself in his own home. His home has been broken into any number of times. The neighborhood is truly not the greatest and he simply wants to have the ability to defend himself and his family.
GLENN: Okay. But Alan, that again you are leaving out key details here. He obviously lives in a minority neighborhood and he's only afraid of the minorities because he's the, if I may quote the president, a typical bitter white person.
GURA: Well, Otis is not white and he's not bitter. I wouldn't say he's even typical because he's truly one of the most charming and magnetic people that you might ever have the pleasure to meet. But Otis is a hero and what he's done for people, not just of Chicago but of the United States is profound. I mean, this is a case that tells state and local officials, your local neighborhood politician that they do need to watch out for the Second Amendment, that you need to obey it, it is something that's going to impact their lives if they ignore it.
GLENN: Okay. So tell me exactly what is going to change in, you know, for instance, New York City. How is this going to change New York City?
GURA: Well, New York City, for example, we've already seen some changes recently in anticipation of this ruling. We saw Mayor Bloomberg announce that he was revisiting some of the gun laws trying to streamline the process, trying to reduce the fees. I think there's an understanding now that it's no longer acceptable to have gun laws that exist for the sole purpose of interfering with people's right of self‑defense. I understand, we all understand that some people don't think the Second Amendment is a good idea, but that's just too bad. They have to accommodate themselves to the fact that this is a part of the Constitution. And laws that don't serve any public purpose and merely exist to interfere with people's right to self‑defense are going to be struck down. So I would hope that Mayor Bloomberg and New York City and other places where there are very tight gun laws will read this opinion, reflect on it, take it seriously and try to comply with the Constitution before a judge forces them to comply.
GLENN: What — I mean, we have a city of Chicago that is so out of control that they are actually considering or were considering bringing in the National Guard. When a reporter brought it up and said, I mean, the gun laws aren't working, obviously the gun laws aren't working because people are murdering each other with guns and you banned guns. I believe the mayor of Chicago responded something about putting that gun or those gun laws up an orifice of that reporter. While we don't necessarily think that was a good idea, what are some of the other ideas now that the mayor is going to have to deal with? Do you know? Do you have any idea? The actual tangible changes coming?
GURA: The tangible, the first tangible change is the mayor has conceded that handguns are going to be permitted in Chicago. They know that they lost this case and at the very least the absolutely most popular weapon for self‑defense that people use is going to be allowed into the City of Chicago. Beyond that it's not clear what they are cooking up. We have other things that we're challenging in this law. For example, we believe that it's no longer going to be acceptable to impose an annual tax on the possession of guns in Chicago. Chicago has a registration scheme that requires people to re‑register constantly all the time. We think that, for example, is something that's going to go away. The mayor has talked about, we haven't seen it, but he's talked about this concept of requiring people to get an insurance policy in order to buy a handgun. The theory is that if you have a gun, you will magically become a violent, dangerous person, imposing costs on society and you must be able to purchase an insurance policy. That's going to get struck down. If he's actually serious about this, he is going to find himself on the losing end of another judgment. We, for example, have right of free speech in this country, but we don't require reporters or radio hosts to go buy libel and slander insurance before they go on the air. If you do something bad with your speech, if you incite a riot or slander someone or commit perjury then, of course, you are going to be held to an account. But generally the idea that you have a right to do something, you live in a state of freedom means that the government cannot put roadblocks in your path as you try to exercise that right.
GURA: And all these road blocks that are being thought of are going to get struck down.
GLENN: Alan, one more question because this is something that bothers me. The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, as the president likes to say. It says what the federal government cannot do. The federal government cannot do.
GURA: That's right.
GLENN: There were religious — there were state religions in almost all of the original 13 states. Massachusetts had a state, you had to be a member of a certain church to be able to serve, et cetera, et cetera. That's just the way it was. What they were trying to avoid was the federal government telling the states what to do. For instance, if you want to have healthcare, universal healthcare like Massachusetts does, do it. Do it. The federal government doesn't have a right to do that, but the state does. Doesn't this conflict with the idea now that the Constitution is telling the states what they must do? Isn't it up to the state to choose?
GURA: No. The state is limited by the Constitution and that's because while what you're describing was perhaps the way things were until the Civil War, in 1868 following the Civil War and the disaster that we experienced in Reconstruction, we made a change. And the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified and the Fourteenth Amendment is a part of our Constitution and it changed the relationship. And the Fourteenth Amendment starts out by saying that everyone who's born here is a citizen of the United States and no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. Then it demands states to respect due process, equal protection, a whole bunch of other restrictions. And so what that means is that starting in 1868 when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, states were held to national civil rights standards and so they cannot take your guns away or ban newspapers or force you to follow a religion that conflicts with your values.
GLENN: All right. Wouldn't it be a better way to argue this case rather than going back to the — I'm not saying this particular case because you've already won two of them. But I mean, wouldn't it be better to argue on the states' rights issue that this is a natural right, to defend yourself in a natural right. You know, you can do healthcare because then all of a sudden, why can't you just make healthcare a right and you got a — the federal government has every right to do it.
GURA: We don't have —
GLENN: This is a natural right.
GURA: We don't have any positive rights, any rights to entitlements for goodies from the government. You are right, we do have certain natural rights, negative liberties, the idea that the government can't force us to do things or interfere in our daily lives. And what makes this lawsuit and lawsuits like that possible is that the Constitution tells states they have to respect individual freedoms in certain areas and one of those areas is the right to keep buying and use guns.
Another area, of course, which the Courts don't respect enough but we hope that they will in the future is there is recognition that you have the right to make use of your property, to pursue a livelihood of your choosing without excessive regulation. You have the right to live generally is a state of freedom. If the state wants to infringe on that, then they have to find some positive source of authority to enact those laws. They can't simply go ahead and deprive you of your basic liberty.
GLENN: All right, thank you very much, Alan Gura who has now won the — I mean, this guy is a gun legend.
GURA: Thank you.
GLENN: He has now won both the D.C. and the Chicago cases with the Supreme Court. Alan, there is a reason for everybody being born. I think we found yours. God bless you.
GURA: Oh, thank you so much.
GLENN: God bless you. Thank you very much.
[NOTE: Transcript may have been edited to enhance readability - audio archive includes full segment as it was originally aired]