The legal scholars, Ian Ayres, Abbe Gluck and Tracey Meares, who recently worked together on an issue of The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics entitled “Gun Violence in America: An Interdisciplinary Examination,” each weighed in with their thoughts about legislative and legal solutions to gun violence in the U.S., according to an announcement from the law school.
Ayres is the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Professor at Yale Law School and a professor at the Yale School of Management. He is advocating for a “decentralized, libertarian approach” to combat gun deaths and recently co-authored a book detailing what that might look like.
“Traditional gun control is top-down state control. The government decides which guns and people should be restricted, then attempts to enforce these restrictions,” said Ayres. “Our book’s proposals instead empower people. It first searches for individual members of society who have sufficient information and incentives to take action to reduce gun violence. It then tries to give these decentralized actors new actions that they can take. Instead of imposing one-size-fits-all rules on society, it gives individuals the liberty to reduce the risk of gun violence.”
One such way this could be accomplished is through the adoption of a new proposal known as Donna’s Law. Under this plan, individuals would be empowered “to temporarily suspend their ability to purchase and possess firearms.”
“Prior research demonstrates that even a short delay in gun acquisition can reduce suicide, and a large percentage of the population would self-restrict in this manner,” Ayres said.
"I will vote against the Biden-Schumer gun confiscation legislation, which includes red flag gun confiscation that violates the Second Amendment rights of my constituents."
Recently, a version of this legislation was introduced in Louisiana by state Sen. Jimmy Harris. The “Louisiana Voluntary Do Not Sell List” was originally proposed in 2019 as HB No. 101, and Ayres notes several states have either proposed or enacted similar legislation.
According to a website dedicated to the bill’s passage, the Louisiana bill is named after Donna Nathan, who killed herself with a handgun she purchased despite having required inpatient mental health services. “Donna’s Law is a voluntary self-registry prohibition to gun sales for those who choose to create self-defense against suicide. If one chooses to reverse their registration, they would be given a waiting period of a couple weeks,” reads the website. “While this won’t prevent every suicide, it could have prevented many others.”
Ayres also points out private businesses can also help reduce gun violence by voluntarily enacting policies outside what is mandated by law. For example, in 1994 Walmart opted to stop selling handguns. Ayres argues this policy “robustly reduced the number of suicides in affected counties.”
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Gluck, who is the Alfred M. Rankin Professor of Law, faculty director of the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School and a professor of internal medicine at Yale Medical School, addressed the value of litigation victims and families have brought against gun manufacturers in the broader context of solving gun violence.
“As we have seen in contexts from tobacco to opioids, litigation can be a powerful tool in galvanizing the regulatory response necessary to address a public health crisis,” Gluck said. “Litigation can increase the salience of a public health issue, elicit closely guarded information to move public opinion, and prompt legislative action. When it comes to suits against gun violence, however, litigation has faced significant and unusual obstacles—but the tide may be turning.”
Among some other relevant developments Gluck pointed to include the 2020 congressional authorization of $25 million for gun violence research, which was largely blocked until recently, and the newly discovered cracks in the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which provides general immunity for manufacturers. Despite those protections, though, victims of the devastating Newtown, Conn., shooting won a $73 million settlement after alleging certain marketing tactics violated state law.
Meares, the Walton Hale Hamilton Professor and a Founding Director of the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School, said she is focusing her research on the relationship between law enforcement, shooting victims and their families. She also pointed to a law in Connecticut that addresses risk factors for gun owners.
“For too long and much too often, the response by some to mass shootings has been to answer gun violence with more guns and to claim that the best response to shootings is a reactive strategy that prioritizes law enforcers with higher powered guns than those used by shooters,” Meares said. “Research has long demonstrated that access to guns makes people in their homes less safe—especially from suicide-based gun violence. Red-flag laws can help as well.”