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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.

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13 Responses to Don Kates, RIP

    • She was a real monster. Reno was most infamous for the Waco massacre and Elian Gonzales, but she also tried to try convict Richard Jewell in the media by leaking information that made him out to be the 1996 Olympic Park bomber.

      She conducted witch hunts of innocent people for child abuse. One of her victim’s was only 14 years old, Bobby Fjinje.

      PBS interviewer: When you finally go into the courtroom and see Janet Reno[attorney general for the state of Florida], and you look over at her, what did you think?

      Bobby Fjinje: I looked at her. I didn’t really have an opinion about her. She’s not the most attractive lady in the world. I really didn’t know who she was. Who she stood for. I knew she was for the state, but I didn’t know what level she was at.

      PBS interviewer: You would come to know, of course, a couple of years later, as you were reaching adulthood, out of the country, she would become Attorney General of the United States. She would be introduced to the country as a famous child advocate prosecutor from Miami. How do you feel about her then?

      Bobby Fjinje: I really don’t understand how they could say that about her. Because I was a child. She didn’t come and ask me what–“How could we work this out? What could we do?” She didn’t care. She wanted to try me as an adult. I was 14-years-old; I still had my whole life ahead of me.

      The newsletter Casualties of Sexual Allegations (January 1997) says that young Bobby was an insulin-dependent diabetic who “became ill and unsteady during 7 hours of questioning during which he had almost no food. Promised he could leave if he confessed, he made a sort of confession, but when immediately taken into custody, he reasserted his innocence.”

      The newsletter Casualties of Sexual Allegations (January 1997) says that young Bobby was an insulin-dependent diabetic who became ill and unsteady during 7 hours of questioning during which he had almost no food. Promised he could leave if he confessed, he made a sort of confession, but when immediately taken into custody, he reasserted his innocence….

      On the morning of 4 May 1991, the jury advised Judge Gerstein that a verdict had been reached, but we waited an hour and a half for that verdict to be read. Judge Gerstein advised our lawyer that we must wait for Ms. Reno’s arrival. She wanted to be present when the verdict was read.

      Bobby was acquitted on all counts.

  1. Before we all get way too sloppy in our eulogies of Don Kates, maybe some of us should actually read the Michigan Law Review article. You won’t like it.

    His stand for restrictions on long guns and certain handguns for personal protection is ridiculous and offensive. Worst of all was his insistence that FEDERAL licensing of guns and owners was Constitutionally viable and a good thing.

    “Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment” is, at best, very weak sauce.

    • The man made an argument that was, in part, shaped by the times he lived in. For pity’s sake, he was an unreconstructed liberal activist writing in an era when the supposedly gun culture-friendly Texas didn’t ‘allow’ concealed carry.

      Thurgood Marshall crafted his arguments about civil rights in the 1940s and 1950s pretty carefully, too.

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