My colleague Adam Winkler has co-authored a letter signed by a slew of prominent law professors in which they address the constitutionality of gun control legislation:
In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment, which provides, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," guarantees an individual's right to have a functional firearm in the home for self-defense. The Court's decision in that case, District of Columbia v. Heller, struck down a D.C. law that effectively barred the use of any firearm for self-defense. The law is now clear that the government may not completely disarm law-abiding, responsible citizens. The Court also made clear, however, that many gun regulations remain constitutionally permissible. "Like most rights," the Court explained, "the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited." Writing for the Court, Justice Antonin Scalia explained that restrictions on "dangerous and unusual" weapons are constitutional and that "nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt" on laws that prohibit "the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill" or laws that impose "conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."
In this sense, Justice Scalia recognized in Heller that, like other constitutional rights, the Second Amendment is not an absolute. The First Amendment, for example, provides that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech," but the Supreme Court has long and consistently held that some types of speech -- for example, defamation, obscenity and threats -- can be regulated; that some people -- for example, public employees, members of the military, students and prisoners -- are subject to greater restrictions on their speech than others; and that the government can reasonably regulate the time, place and manner of speech. As Justice Scalia explained in Heller, the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment are likewise subject to appropriate regulation in order to enhance public safety.
As Brian Leiter observes:
It's a pretty sober and straightforward analysis, and it doesn't even question the decision in Heller ....
The signatories include the usual suspects but also include folks like libertarian legal giant Richard Epstein and ex-conservative Charles Fried (who, granted, is well on his way to becoming one of the usual suspects).
Second Amendment absolutists will have their usual conniption, as will the gun confiscation crowd, but reasonable people will find the argument persuasive.