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The Passing of Don Kates: More Evidence of the Ripple Effect of One Man’s Life

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 16:59
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This article was published by the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, November 9, 2016: 

University of Texas Law School Professor Sanfo...

University of Texas Law School Professor Sanford Levinson

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “ripple effect” correctly: a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence on future events. Don Kates, a scholar, lawyer, and research fellow with the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, likely never intended that his scholarly fulminations against the gun controllers of his day would reach all the way to the Supreme Court.

But they did, and every American, whether they own a firearm or not, benefits from his work today.

It started with an unheralded piece of work he did in 1983, “Handguns and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment,” which was published in 1983 by the Michigan Law Review. It expressed a point of view largely silent during the anti-gun decade leading up to passage of the Brady Bill under the Clinton Administration in 1994: the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment were personal, individual rights belonging to sovereign citizens.

It was almost completely ignored, and, except for the chairman of the law department at the University of Texas, would have disappeared altogether into the dustbin of history. But that chairman, Sanford Levinson (pictured), saw it, read it, reviewed the extensive footnotes and source material, and wrote his own article, “The Embarrassing Second Amendment.”  That was published by the Yale Law Journal, and it changed everything. As C.D. Michel, a Second Amendment lawyer and author of the blog, put it:

[Levinson’s article] echoed Kates’ conclusions concerning the individual rights theory of the Second Amendment, but by appearing in one of the [nation’s] top law journals, it attracted the attention of everyone, and launched an avalanche of academic digging into the origins of the Second Amendment….

All the scholarship that Kates indirectly ignited eventually fueled legal briefs filed before the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 case that reaffirmed [the individual citizen’s] right to arms.

Kates continued to labor at his craft, writing numerous articles and helping the NRA craft briefs in support of the Second Amendment. He hosted meetings of scholars who had changed their minds based upon his work. By then the dam had broken and he was caught up in the rushing waters of changing public opinion. He wrote Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out, which first appeared in 1979, followed by his Firearms and Violence: Issues of Public Policy, which was published in 1984.

His recent works include Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International Evidence, published by the Social Science Resource Network in May 2006 and then republished a year later by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.

His Heller, McDonald and Murder: Testing the More Guns, More Murder Thesis was first published by the Social Science Resource Network in April 2010, but then picked up and republished by Fordham University two years later. One of his last before his death is Murder, Self-Defense, and the Right to Arms, which was published by the Connecticut Law Review in 2013.

Kates passed away last week at the age of 75. He leaves behind not only a vast library of scholarly works defending the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, but a veritable avalanche of works by others that are burying the anti-gunners. As by C.D. Michel, a close friend and associate of Kates, expressed it:

The gun control movement lost their constitutional argument largely due to Kates’ initial work, which, like many moments in history, started with one man telling the truth.


Definition of the ripple effect

Background on Don Kates

AmmoLand: Don Kates – A Giant Among Second Amendment Activists Has Died

Eugene Volokh: Don Kates, the father of the modern Second Amendment revival, has died Don Kates – Second Amendment Centerpost

John Lott’s first book: More Guns Less Crime 2000 based on 1997 study

Don Kates’ first book: Firearms and Violence: Issues of Public Policy (Pacific Studies in Public Policy)


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