Gun Control on Trial: Inside the Supreme Court Battle over the Second Amendment

By Brian Doherty | Go to book overview

2. The Genesis of Heller

In the beginning, it wasn't the Heller case. It was the Parker case, named after original lead plaintiff Shelly Parker. That it reached the Supreme Court as Heller rather than Parker was just one result of the difficult, tangled, uphill battle, against unexpected foes and barriers, that the case fought from its origin in the imaginations of a handful of lawyers and activists to one of the most controversial and significant Supreme Court decisions in American history.

The idea of a lawsuit to challenge D.C.'s gun laws on Second Amendment grounds had many fathers. At the center, however, was Robert Levy. While more than one person talked to him of the benefits and possibilities of such a case, he was the man who recruited a team of lawyers, led the search for plaintiffs, and, most important, agreed to pay for the whole deal. Robert Levy, then a senior fellow in constitutional studies and now chairman at the Cato Institute (a libertarian think tank and publisher of this book) turned the idea into a Supreme Court victory.

Levy recounted the case's genesis to me across the street from Cato's soaring glass-framed tower on Massachusetts Avenue, in a sitting room on the ground floor of the Henley Park Hotel. Levy is compact, bald, and square faced, with prominent ears and an aura of cool, almost menacing competence—he strikes me as the kind of man you would go to to make sure something gets done properly and promptly.

Levy came to the law, and policy, late in life. He made his bones and a sizable fortune in portfolio management and software development, and then at age 50 started law school at George Mason University. Following his libertarian inclinations, he chose not to practice courtroom law but to become a legal policy wonk at the Cato Institute, the largest libertarian policy operation in America. He studied and wrote on antitrust, tort reform, and other recondite legal and constitutional issues.

Levy thinks of himself as a Constitution man, not a gun man. He's not a shooter—and doesn't want to be. His Air Force years were

-23-

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Gun Control on Trial: Inside the Supreme Court Battle over the Second Amendment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction: Heller Makes History xiii
  • 1. the Roots of the Second Amendment 1
  • 2. the Genesis of Heller 23
  • 3. the Politics of Gun Control 43
  • 4. Gun Stories, Gun Culture, and Gun Prejudice 71
  • 5. Guns by Numbers and Heller's Day in Court 85
  • 6. the Heller Aftermath 109
  • Selected Bibliography 117
  • Table of Cases 119
  • Index 121
  • About the Author 127
  • Cato Institute 128
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