Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

March 18, 2007

A Litigator For Liberty

by Doug Mataconis

Today’s Washington Post has a profile of Robert Levy, the lead attorney in the case against the District of Columbia’s gun law:

Meet the lawyer who conceived the lawsuit that gutted the District’s tough gun-control statute this month. Meet the lawyer who recruited a group of strangers to sue the city and bankrolled their successful litigation out of his own pocket.

Meet Robert A. Levy, staunch defender of the Second Amendment, a wealthy former entrepreneur who said he has never owned a firearm and probably never will.

“I don’t actually want a gun,” Levy said by phone last week from his residence, a $1.7 million condominium in a Gulf Coast high-rise. “I mean, maybe I’d want a gun if I was living on Capitol Hill. Or in Anacostia somewhere. But I live in Naples, Florida, in a gated community. I don’t feel real threatened down here.”

He is 65, a District native who left the city 40 years ago for Montgomery County, a self-made millionaire who thinks the government interferes too much with people’s liberties. He was an investment analyst before he sold his company for a fortune and enrolled in law school at age 49. Now he’s a constitutional fellow with the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, working in his luxury condo 1,000 miles away.

It was his idea, his project, his philosophical mission to mount a legal challenge to the city’s “draconian” gun restrictions, which are among the toughest in the nation. The statute offends his libertarian principles, Levy said. And it is entirely his money behind the lawsuit that led a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to strike down the statute this month, a ruling that stunned D.C. officials and gun-control advocates. The city said it will appeal the decision.

Although one of the Plaintiff’s in the case is Tom Palmer of the Cato Institute, the lawsuit was largely Levy’s idea, financed with his own money and done on his own time. Why ? Because the law violates his principles and he wanted to change it:

To Levy the libertarian, though, the effectiveness of the law — its success or failure in curbing crime — isn’t the core issue. What matters most to him is whether the statute unjustly infringes on personal liberties. He doesn’t dispute that “reasonable” gun controls are permissible under the Second Amendment. But the District’s law amounts to “an outright prohibition,” Levy said, and “that offends my constitutional sensibilities.”

So he opened his wallet and did something about it.

And the rest, as they say, is history, with the final chapter waiting to be written by the Justices of the United States Supreme Court.

As I read the article, I couldn’t help but think of Levy as a modern-day version of the Founding Fathers. He saw a law that he disagreed with, a law that didn’t even impact him since he didn’t live in the District and doesn’t like guns, and he did something to change it. It’s nice to know there are still people like that around.

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  • Bob Levy

    I am pleased that the Washington Post emphasized the constitutional aspect of our lawsuit. My major regret is that our lead counsel, Alan Gura, didn’t receive the credit he deserves. Alan has worked for next-to-minimum-wage and has been our legal superstar. Parker v. DC prevailed in major part because of Alan’s prodigious efforts.

  • Victor Morris

    I thank you, and millions of Americans thank you for your courage and support of the 2nd Amendment.
    When taken in context with the Declaration of Independence concerning the removal or abolishment of a government that had outlived it’s usefulness, or had exceeded the bounds of it’s authority, it is quite obvious that the founding fathers intended that the right of “individuals” to keep and bear arms was paramount in their minds when drafting this particular amendment.

  • http://deleted Victor Morris

    Once a government effectively takes away the right of it’s citizens to keep and bear arms, it no longer has to worry about repercussions from any of it’s actions.
    If the colonies had given up their firearms, as ordered by the British crown, we would not have a United States of America today.
    The Second Amendment was designed to protect us from that.
    By insuring that the people had the means to abolish any government that had exceeded it’s bounds, the founding fathers were also insuring that our government would continue to be a “government of the people, by the people and for the people”, and that it could only govern with the “consent of the governed”.
    Once the means for the removal of a government are taken away, then the Constitution becomes a farce.
    The Founders intended for the people to be the ULTIMATE AUTHORITY, and thus we have the Second Amendment.

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