Law, Policy, and Guns

Through a series of public events, a new course offering, cutting-edge scholarship, and a special issue of The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, the Solomon Center is placing a special focus on addressing the epidemic of gun violence in America.

Gun Violence in America: An Interdisciplinary Examination


Every year, nearly 40,000 Americans die from gun violence, an average of 100 people per day. Another 73,000 people experience firearm injuries — some so severe they are life altering, according to federal statistics. The United States leads the developed world in rates of gun violence, and the toll of this epidemic affects everyone across the country. To examine the deleterious effects of this growing crisis, Yale Law School faculty and students teamed up with experts across Yale University to publish a groundbreaking volume devoted to the gun violence epidemic in the January issue of The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics (JLME). The Journal issue marks the culmination of a special course taught at Yale Law School in the spring of 2020 titled “The Law, Policy, and Guns," and features 26 articles from a team of students, professors, scholars, physicians, advocates and other experts from across the country seeking to address the epidemic through interdisciplinary conversation and research. The authors tackled the problem from four angles — criminal justice, medicine and public health, the roles of regulation and litigation, and data and empirics.

The articles published in Gun Violence in America: An Interdisciplinary Examination (2020) include:

Advancing the Scholarship on Gun Violence Through Interdisciplinary Collaboration:

For a deeper dive into the problem of gun violence in America, the Solomon Center has also joined forces with the faculty and staff of the Justice Collaboratory and Professor Ian Ayres to host an interdisciplinary seminar this spring called “Law, Policy & Guns.” Through collaborative research with physicians and faculty from across the university as well as gun policy experts and litigators from across the country, students co-authored original scholarship making concrete and timely interventions in the debate about gun violence. The articles resulting from the seminar were published in the 2020 winter supplement of the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics.

Among the questions the course and some of the resulting scholarship address are:

  1. What exactly is America’s gun violence problem, and do the policy responses fit the real causes?
  2. How are the criminal justice system and its stakeholder, responding to gun violence?
  3. What is the role of healthcare professionals?
  4. How are guns regulated at the state and federal levels and how have state and local governments responded to the gun violence problem?
  5. How has ongoing litigation conceived of the nature of gun violence and the liberty interest in bearing arms and what kinds of research is the litigation generating?

The Law, Policy, and Guns has been generously supported by the Oscar M. Ruebhausen fund at Yale Law School.

Public Events:

In addition to the scholarly projects, in January and February of 2020, the Solomon Center has welcomed a variety of guest speakers for large public lectures and panels as well as more intimate student discussions:

January 21, 2020 — The Use and Abuse of History in Second Amendment Cases (event cosponsor, event host Yale American Constitution Society)

Jennifer Tucker, Saul Cornell, and Mark Frassetto speaking at Yale Law School

Jennifer Tucker, Saul Cornell, and Mark Frassetto at a January 21 event.

To kick off the semester's series on gun violence, the Solomon Center co-sponsored with the American Constitution Society a historians’ discussion of the uses and abuses of history in Second Amendment adjudication. The event included Professor Saul Cornell (Fordham), author of A Well Regulated Militia (2006); Professor Jennifer Tucker (Wesleyan), co-editor of A Right to Bear Arms? (2019); and attorney  Mark Frassetto, Senior Counsel and Deputy Director for Second Amendment History and Scholarship at Everytown for Gun Safety. The discussion explored how, given the centrality of originalism in the major recent Second Amendment cases, litigants and legal scholars can promote the use of sound historical methods and understandings of the regulation of guns in eighteenth- and nineteenth- century America.

January 29, 2020 — Student Discussion with Chelsea Parsons and Robyn Thomas

We then welcomed Chelsea Parsons, Vice President of Gun Violence Prevention at the Center for American Progress, and Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, for a small group discussion with YLS students to discuss their careers as advocates against gun violence and their work on at state-level gun regulation.

February 5, 2020 — “Fighting Gun Violence in Court”

On February 5, the Solomon Center hosted a public lunch panel featuring Jonathan Lowy, Chief Counsel and VP of Legal for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence; Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel and Policy Director for the Giffords Law Center; and Josh Koskoff of Koskoff, Koskoff, and Beider, who represents families of Sandy Hook shooting victims in their suit against Remington Arms Company. These leading litigators discussed successes, setbacks, and strategies in taking on gun violence—and gun manufacturers—in court.  Read more about the discussion here.

February 20, 2020 — "Legislators Against Gun Violence"

On February 20, we welcomed U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal ’73 along with State Senator Gary Winfield and State Representative Steven Stafstrom, who jointly co-chair the Connecticut’s Committee on the Judiciary, for a discussion about combatting gun violence through legislation. The legislators discussed their experiences attempting and achieving gun reform at the federal and state levels and their goals and strategies for achieving future reform. A summary of the event can be found here.

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