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Tuesday, Jun 26 2012 05:00 PM

Prominent Second Amendment lawyer brings message to Bakersfield

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Alan Gura was the lead attorney before the Supreme Court in a case defending the Second Amendment. He spoke before the Bakersfield Chapter of the Federalist Society.

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BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer rkheel@bakersfield.com

Opponents of Second Amendment gun rights will eventually accept an individual's right to keep and bear arms, prominent Second Amendment attorney Alan Gura said Tuesday during a speech at the Petroleum Club on California Avenue.

"They're going through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression," he said. "We haven't yet seen acceptance."

During the address to the Bakersfield Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society, Gura pressed an individual's right to carry a gun and highlighted court cases he's worked on to protect that right.

The Federalist Society is a national conservative and libertarian organization founded in 1982 that seeks to correct what members see as an orthodox liberal ideology creeping into the modern legal profession. The Bakersfield chapter was founded a little more than a year ago. This is the third speaker it's hosted, and its events usually draw 30 to 40 people, said Alan Doud, chapter president.

Gura is most known for successfully arguing two recent Supreme Court cases related to the Second Amendment. The first, in 2008, was District of Columbia v. Heller. That case found the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to carry a weapon for traditionally lawful purposes in areas of federal jurisdiction.

The second case, in 2010, was McDonald v. Chicago. In that case, the court ruled the Second Amendment also applies to the individual states.

On Tuesday, Gura described what he sees as the four main legal challenges to the Second Amendment. The first is a law or litigation that conflicts with a core part of the Second Amendment. A core part would be determined through text, history or tradition, Gura said.

His main example of that challenge was his argument in the Heller case. The law in question in the Heller case allowed firearms in the home, but prohibited them from being able to be fired, either by keeping them unloaded, disassembled or bound by a trigger lock.

"If you have the right to bear arms, then you have the right to bear functional arms," Gura said.

The second challenge is a restriction on the type of weapon that can be carried. An example would be a ban on assault rifles as opposed to handguns.

The third challenge is when a law generally has something to do with the Second Amendment and courts have to determine if it's an appropriate restriction.

The final challenge is what Gura said he predicts will be the next big court case about the Second Amendment -- licensing laws that restrict keeping a gun outside of the home. The answer to whether those laws are constitutional, Gura said, can already be found in history and in the decision for the Heller case.

In state constitutions in the beginning of American history, Gura said, it was clear being able to carry a weapon meant being able to carry it outside the home.

In Heller, the majority decision stated that a person cannot carry a gun anytime, anywhere for any reason. While some would interpret that to mean a gun can never be carried, Gura said it means "you must be able to carry a gun at some time, some where and for some reason."

Walt Selvidge, 43, from Shafter, came to hear Gura's speech. Selvidge owns more than one gun, but would not specify how many. He keeps them for home protection, he said, and also shoots them at a gun range once a month.

Selvidge said he wanted to hear about threats to his rights as a gun owner such as restricting the availability of firearms or mail-order ammunition.

"I'm a strong believer in Second Amendment rights, and I want to have as much of an education on that as possible," he said.

On the other hand, Selvidge's wife, Andrea, 41, came to the speech as a form of enrichment for her legal career, she said. She practices business law, so the Second Amendment does not play much of a role in her job. But, she said, it's always good for a lawyer to know about major court cases.

"I like to know about anything that touches on major legal issues," she said, "and where the court is on that issue."

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