Guns, the Second Amendment and Mass Shootings: An Interview With UCLA Law Prof. Adam Winkler

Adam Winkler, professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law is the author of <a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.
Adam Winkler, professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law is the author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.

UCLA Law Professor Adam Winkler is a specialist in constitutional law. His scholarship has been quoted in landmark Supreme Court cases, including opinions on the Second Amendment.

Winkler has authored many scholarly articles and countless opinion pieces on legal issues. His writings have appeared in news outlets including: the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, Scotusblog, and The Daily Beast.

Winkler, who is also a frequent commentator about legal issues, answered questions regarding the Second Amendment, preventing mass shootings, and potential middle ground for the politicized debate over gun control.

How long have you been studying and analyzing the Second Amendment? 

I have studied and analyzed the Second Amendment for over 10 years and authored a book about it, Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.

Is the Second Amendment misunderstood by the American people? 

Yes. While the amendment is properly understood to protect an individual right to have arms, it also permits many forms of gun control. Too many Americans believe we can have a right to bear arms or gun control, but not both. The Second Amendment’s history and text tell us otherwise. We can have both — and for most of American history, we have regulated guns. 

Americans are split on the proper response to gun violence. Some Americans believe the answer is to restrict guns. Others believe more guns are the answer. So long as we have such divergent views about how to respond to gun violence, these incidents won’t breed consensus. 

Is the Second Amendment something that only the legal intelligentsia fully understand? 


Is it true that the U.S. Supreme Court, at times, decides cases with public policy/sentiment in mind?  What makes gun control different from issues like civil rights or gay marriage? 

Yes, the court does informally respond to the times. But in America, guns are popular. So courts responding to the popular will also uphold gun rights.

Do you think that stricter laws regarding who, when, and what type of weapons may be bought by civilians will stop, or curtail mass shootings in the U.S.?

It is very difficult to prevent mass shootings. What we can do is adopt laws to lower the daily death toll from guns, including universal background checks and stronger enforcement of current gun laws. In a nation with 320 million guns, anyone determined to do evil will be able to use a firearm.

Do you think there is a political middle ground regarding some form of gun control that both the political left and right could agree to?  

Yes, there is a middle ground on guns. We can have gun rights and effective gun control. But the NRA makes that very difficult by opposing even those gun reforms, such as universal background checks, supported by most Americans. Gun advocates are such a force on Election Day, however, that no compromise legislation is enacted. 

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