Leary Lecturer to Address Gun Rights and "Originalism" on the U.S. Supreme Court

By Marty Stolz

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s release in June of District of Columbia v. Heller, advocates of both gun rights and gun control scrambled to sort through the meaning of the decision, the first case in which the Supreme Court expressly held that the Second Amendment grants an individual a right to bear arms.

Eugene Volokh, one of the nation’s preeminent legal scholars on the subject, was not at all surprised. The decision affirmed a position he had long advocated. The majority opinion in Heller cited three law review articles written by Volokh, a proponent of gun rights at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. More than a mere gun rights advocate, Volokh is known as an iconoclast challenging established ideas. For example, he has urged law students in his firearms regulation course to get a better basic understanding of guns and how they work by providing an optional field trip to the firing range.

This year’s William H. Leary Lecture at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law features Prof. Volokh. His talk is entitled “Implementing Originalism: What District of Columbia v. Heller Shows Us.”

The free lecture, the 43rdannual Leary Lecture, will be presented on Monday, Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. in the Sutherland Moot Court Room at College of Law. Volokh’s lecture will be preceded at 5:30 p.m. by a reception in the Rosenblatt Foyer. The College of Law is located at 383 South University Street in Salt Lake City, Utah 84112.

Volokh says his lecture will offer a close reading of the case, trying to show, “at a leisurely pace and in a detached way, how it is that the Court is actually implementing originalism.”

Heller struck down a District of Columbia gun control law as unconstitutional. It was the first Supreme Court decision in seven decades that directly addressed the Second Amendment.

Originalism refers to a type of approach to constitutional interpretation used by some justices of the Supreme Court. However, the precise meaning of the term and its applications are subject to debate.

Volokh, noting that both the majority and dissenting opinions in Heller rely on originalist arguments, sees lessons to be learned from the decision about Supreme Court’s use of originalism.

“I want to give a talk in an unhurried way,” Volokh says. “I want to go through the opinion with the audience. This talk should engage people interested in this as a gun rights case, people interested in originalist jurisprudence more broadly, and people interested in how judges craft their legal arguments.”

Volokh, 40, is the Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. Professor Volokh was born in Kiev and immigrated to the United States as a child.  He began taking college courses at the age of 10 and received his undergraduate degree in mathematics and computer science from UCLA at the age of 15. He worked as a computer programmer before returning to UCLA for law school, where he earned his Juris Doctor, graduating first in the class of 1992. After college, he worked as a law clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court and for Judge Alex Kozinski on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. At UCLA, Volokh teaches constitutional law, criminal law, and academic legal writing, and has also taught firearms regulation law and copyright law.

Volokh is the author of the textbooks The First Amendment and Related Statutes (2008), The Religion Clauses and Related Statutes (2005), and Academic Legal Writing (2007), as well as more than 50 law review articles and more than 80 non-academic opinion pieces, published in The Wall Street Journal, The National Review, Slate and many others.  He also maintains The Volokh Conspiracy, a blog, at www.volokh.com. Volokh is a member of The American Law Institute. Volokh lives in Los Angeles with his wife and his 5- and 3-year-old sons.

Free parking is available east of the College of Law. A TRAX station is also within walking distance. For more information: (801) 581-6833.