Connecticut Law Review Volume 45 - Issue 5

Let Us Talk Past Each Other for a While: A Brief Response to Professor Johnson

This Article is a brief response to Professor Johnson’s excellent lead article, Firearms Policy and the Black Community: An Assessment of the Modern Orthodoxy. Professor Johnson has (I would say unfairly) counted me among the “orthodoxy” that believes that any and all gun control measures are good for communities of color. He accuses me (and the rest of those who hew to the modern orthodoxy) of ignoring the clear and present danger faced by what he calls the “Parker/MacDonald class”—law-abiding citizens who live in dangerous neighborhoods that are (perhaps) not well served by law enforcement. Professor Johnson urges that members of the Parker/MacDonald class should be allowed to protect themselves in their homes and (presumably) on their streets. I admit that Professor Johnson’s anecdotal argument is persuasive, and I agree with him. But I also point out that the Supreme Court has already held that the Second Amendment guarantees the Parker/MacDonald class the right—subject to reasonable restrictions—to protect itself with certain classes of firearms—so that part of the debate is over. On that score, the Parker/MacDonald Class has won. But that does not scratch the surface of today’s gun rights/gun control divide—a divide that is bitter and will be difficult to bridge. I then lament the lack of good empirical data that could help inform the gun rights/gun control debate—a deficit that has led both sides of the debate to rely on obsolete data to support their arguments. I urge both sides to embrace new peer- reviewed empirical studies, for example, on defensive gun use and gun trafficking, that could help guide us toward a sane middle ground that would allow permissible restrictions that can actually save innocent lives, what I call the “Newtown/Pendleton/Harbour class.” I then turn the tables and ask Professor Johnson what gun control measures he would favor so long as the basic right to keep and bear arms for self-defense is guaranteed.

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