Adam Winkler

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Adam Winkler

Adam Winkler (born July 25, 1967) is a professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law.


  • Gun rights and gun control, however, have lived together since the birth of the country. Americans have always had the right to keep and bear arms as a matter of state constitutional law. Today, 43 of the 50 state constitutions clearly protect an individual’s right to own guns, apart from militia service.
    Yet we’ve also always had gun control. The Founding Fathers instituted gun laws so intrusive that, were they running for office today, the NRA would not endorse them. While they did not care to completely disarm the citizenry, the founding generation denied gun ownership to many people: not only slaves and free blacks, but law-abiding white men who refused to swear loyalty to the Revolution....
    Today, the NRA is the unquestioned leader in the fight against gun control. Yet the organization didn’t always oppose gun regulation....
    In the 1920s and ’30s, the NRA was at the forefront of legislative efforts to enact gun control. The organization’s president at the time was Karl T. Frederick, a Princeton- and Harvard-educated lawyer known as “the best shot in America”—a title he earned by winning three gold medals in pistol-shooting at the 1920 Summer Olympic Games. As a special consultant to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, Frederick helped draft the Uniform Firearms Act, a model of state-level gun-control legislation....
    Frederick’s model law had three basic elements. The first required that no one carry a concealed handgun in public without a permit from the local police. A permit would be granted only to a “suitable” person with a “proper reason for carrying” a firearm. Second, the law required gun dealers to report to law enforcement every sale of a handgun, in essence creating a registry of small arms. Finally, the law imposed a two-day waiting period on handgun sales.
    The NRA today condemns every one of these provisions as a burdensome and ineffective infringement on the right to bear arms.
  • Like the KKK, the NRA was also formed right after the Civil War. The organization’s first major involvement with promoting gun laws tainted by prejudice was in the 1920s and 30s. In response to urban gun violence often associated with immigrants, especially those from Italy, the NRA’s president, Karl Frederick, helped draft model legislation to restrict concealed carry of firearms in public. States, Frederick’s model law recommended, should only allow concealed carry by people with a license, and those licenses should be restricted to “suitable” people with “proper reason for carrying” a gun in public. Thanks to the NRA’s endorsement, these laws were adopted in the majority of states.
    The 1960s saw another wave of gun control laws that were, at least in part, motivated by race. After Malcolm X promised to fight for civil rights “by any means necessary” while posing for Ebony magazine with an M1 Carbine rifle in his hand and the Black Panthers took to streets of Oakland with loaded guns, conservatives like Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, began promoting gun control. Black radicals with guns, coupled with the devastating race riots that wiped out whole neighborhoods in Newark and Detroit in 1967, helped persuade Congress to pass the Gun Control Act of 1968. That law barred felons from purchasing firearms, expanded the licensing of gun dealers, and barred imports of “Saturday Night Specials”—cheap, often poorly made guns that were frequently used for crime by urban youth. As one gun control supporter at the time frankly admitted, a close look at that law revealed that it wasn’t really about controlling guns; it was about controlling blacks. And the NRA, in its signature publication, American Rifleman, took credit for the law and extolled its virtues.
  • The National Rifle Association’s days of being a political powerhouse may be numbered.
    Why? The answer is in the numbers.
    Support for, and opposition to, gun control is closely associated with several demographic characteristics, including race, level of education and whether one lives in a city. Nearly all are trending forcefully against the NRA.
    The core of the NRA’s support comes from white, rural and relatively less educated voters. This demographic is currently influential in politics but clearly on the wane.
    ...the heart of the organization’s power is the voters it can turn out to vote, and they are likely to decline in number.
  • In recognition of the nation’s changing demographics, the NRA is making a major push to diversify: Its new spokesman, Colion Noir, is an engaging African American millennial. Yet the NRA’s annual convention remains largely a sea of white folks. And as the NRA’s reluctance to make a statement in support of Philando Castile suggests — many believe the group would have immediately backed a white concealed-carrier in such circumstances — there is still a long way to go....
    By the light of the law, the answer is easy: The Constitution prohibits racl discrimination in all rights, including the right to bear arms. By the light of history, however, the answer is far more complicated. From America’s earliest days, the right to bear arms has been profoundly shaped by race. Indeed, for much of our history, the right’s protections extended almost exclusively to whites.
    The founding generation that adopted the Second Amendment also enacted racially discriminatory gun laws. Fearing slave revolts, early American lawmakers prohibited slaves — and often free blacks, too — from possessing weapons of any kind.

We the Corporations (2018)[edit]

: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights

  • In December 1882, Roscoe Conkling... appeared before the justices of the Supreme Court... to argue that corporations like his client, the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, were entitled to equal rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Although that provision of the Constitution said that no state shall "deprive any person... " or "deny to any person..." Conkling insisted the... drafters intended to cover business corporations too. ...The Fourteenth Amendment had been adopted after the Civil War to guarantee the rights of freed slaves, not to protect corporations. Conkling, however, had unusual credibility... If anyone could testify to the intent of the... drafters, it was Conkling, who was one himself. ...Conkling produced a musty, never-before-published journal that purported to detail his committee's deliberations. ...There was just one small problem with Conkling's account of the drafting... it was not true.
    • Introduction Are Corporations People?
  • Although a procedural snafu prevented the Supreme Court from issuing a final ruling... justices soon after embraced Conkling's argument... In the years that followed, the Supreme Court would invoke those corporate rights to invalidate numerous laws governing how businesses were to be run, supervised, and taxed. Between 1868, when the amendment was ratified, and 1912, when a scholar set out to identify every Fourteenth Amendment case heard by the Supreme Court... 28 cases [dealt] with the rights of African Americans... 312 cases... with the rights of corporations.
    • Introduction Are Corporations People?
  • Despite the fact that corporations have never been subjected to systematic opression like women and minorities... today corporations have nearly the same rights as individuals... a considerable share of the Constitution's most fundamental protections.
    • Introduction Are Corporations People?
  • [I]n Citizens United... justices ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend their money to influence elections. The decision was wildly unpopular, with poles showing an overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans opposed. ...As of 2016, sixteen states and hundreds of municipalities had endorsed a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United...
    • Introduction Are Corporations People?
  • Four years after Citizens United, the Supreme Court expanded the rights... in the Hobby Lobby case. ...The company ...was allowed an exemption from a federal rule requiring large employers to include birth control in their employee's health plans. The Hobby Lobby decision has since been cited to support the claims of businesses whose owners do not wish to provide wedding services to same-sex couples on grounds of religion.
    • Introduction Are Corporations People?
  • [T]he Citizens United and Hobby Lobby cases are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
    • Introduction Are Corporations People?
  • Corporations did not win their constitutional rights in quite the same way as women, racial minorities, or gays and lesbians... [who] pursued their claims in both courts of law and the court of public opinion. To achieve lasting constitutional change... required more... Lawsuits were backed up by broad-based, popular social movements that demanded rights for those who had been denied the original premise of We the People.
    • Introduction Are Corporations People?
  • Although Americans often think of the Supreme Court as a bulwark to protect minority rights against the tyranny of the majority, the court's record... was dishearteningly bad prior to the 1950s. For most of American history, the Supreme Court failed to protect the dispossessed and marginalized... [T]he court's record on corporate rights was much different. In 1809... corporations won that first case—and have compiled an impressive list of victories... [T]he court has insisted that broad public sentiment favoring business regulation must bend to the demands of the Constitution.
    • Introduction Are Corporations People?
  • For most of American history, the court has been decidedly favorable to business, regardless of whether the majority of justices was liberal or conservative.
    • Introduction Are Corporations People?
  • Many critics of Citizens United believe that corporations have the same rights as individuals because the Supreme Court defines them as people. The proposed constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is based on this idea... Yet corporate personhood has played only a secondary role in the corporate rights movement. ...[J]ustices have more often relied upon a very different conception... an association capable of asserting the rights of its members. This... has paved the way for the steady expansion of corporate rights. Indeed, corporate personhood has traditionally—and surprisingly—been used to justify limits on the rights of corporations.
    • Introduction Are Corporations People?

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