Long before the Heller case, before More Guns, Less Crime, back when Texas didn’t allow concealed carry, there was Don Kates. In 1983, when he was in private practice of law, he published an article titled, “Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment,” in the University of Michigan Law Review, which was one of the first serious articles in a modern law journal defending the notion that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to keep and bear arms for Americans. He was a tireless advocate for the right to keep and bear arms and civil rights, generally.
It isn’t often that a man gets an opportunity to make a difference for the people around him and the causes he supports. Even rarer is the man who can see that he made a difference within his lifetime. Happily, Mr. Kates was able to do both. When he pulled the trigger on his article in 1983, the hammers began falling soon thereafter — from the political movement to push the right to carry a firearm that has saved the lives of some, and empowered many, to the movement in the law and academia that eventually persuaded the Supreme Court that the right to keep and bear arms deserved protection alongside the rights to speech, conscience, assembly, and the rest.
In his tribute to Mr. Kates, Massad Ayoob described him as a “classic example of the thinking liberal who realized restricting gun ownership caused more bad than good.” Indeed, Mr. Kates was a Freedom Rider in the ’60s and worked with radical attorney William Kunstler at the start of his legal career.
The gun rights movement, the legal profession, and America, generally, is diminished by the loss.