Some in the gun control camp view such conciliatory pronouncements with skepticism.
Alan Morrisonthe George Washington University Law School professor who cofounded the Public Citizens Litigation Group and was slated to be Gura's opposing counsel in Heller until being dropped in January 2008 in favor of O'Melveny & Myers partner Walter Dellingertells The Am Law Daily that despite Gura's claims to the contrary, he views him as a Second Amendment absolutist.
"[Gura] was saying that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed, that the government can't do anything regarding guns and that the courts are the only part of our government that should do anything about the Second Amendment," says Morrison, referring to the January 9 Cato panel, at which he also appeared. "Sure, he's more reasonable than Wayne LaPierre, but that's not hard." Morrison, who says he doesn't know Gura well, believes that he appears less extreme than he actually is because he talks in less bombastic terms than some gun rights proponents and doesn't make wild accusations about people whose views differ from his.
Jonathan Lowy, the director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence agrees with Morrison's assessment. "Often what you'll find with Alan is that when he's on a case, he will say that whatever law he is challenging is unconstitutional in his view, but that doesn't mean other laws are unconstitutional," says Lowy, who estimates that he has argued opposite Gura between 10 and 20 times. "Then in the next case, he'll challenge those other laws as being unconstitutional."
Gura's approach was on display at the January 29 Cornell event. When asked about New York state's recently passed gun control law, which limits the capacity of gun magazines from 10 rounds to seven, Gura called it "ridiculous" and "clearly unconstitutional." He also argued that Americans have an expectation that their guns can shoot more than seven rounds. At the same time, he said he believed states "can regulate the amount of ammunition that one takes with him or her walking down the street."
Saying he respects Gura as an attorney, Lowy nonetheless makes it clear he's no fan of what his frequent adversary is trying to accomplish. "What has happened since Heller has the potential to have much broader and more dangerous effects on the safety of Americans," says Lowy. "That is what Alan and others are advocatinga broad expansion of the Second Amendment to prevent communities from having the kind of common sense public safety laws they want and overwhelmingly support."
Gura himself believes he could make further gains on that front soon. He told sibling publication The National Law Journal in December that courts have been "all over the place" in determining whether state and local gun control laws are constitutional. Gura has already filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the Second Circuit's November decision upholding New York's public carry ban. It's also possible that Illinois could ask the Court to review the Seventh Circuit's December.
"Right now there are a variety of Second Amendment disputes working their way up to the Supreme Court," he told the NLJ. "We're having conflicting opinions by appellate courts on the extent to which local governments can regulate the carrying of guns outside the home for self defense."
Gura plans to have something to say about how those conflicting opinions are resolved in the postSandy Hook era.