For nearly 200 years of our nation’s history, the Second Amendment was an all-but-forgotten rule about the importance of militias. But in the 1960s and 70s, a movement emerged — led by Black Panthers and a recently-repositioned NRA — that insisted owning a firearm was the right of each and every American. So began a constitutional debate that only the Supreme Court could solve. That didn’t happen until 2008, when a Washington, D.C. security guard named Dick Heller made a compelling case.
Sean Rameswaram interviews Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale on the roof of the Oakland Museum of California, where “All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50” was on display earlier this year.
(Lisa Silberstein, Oakland Museum of California)
Joseph P. Tartaro, president of the Second Amendment Foundation, at his desk in Buffalo, New York.
The key voices:
Adam Winkler, professor at UCLA School of Law, author of Gunfight
Jill Lepore, professor of American history at Harvard University
Stephen Halbrook, attorney specializing in Second Amendment litigation
Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party
John Aquilino, former spokesman of the National Rifle Association
Joseph P. Tartaro, president of the Second Amendment Foundation
Sanford Levinson, professor at the University of Texas Law School
Clark Neily, vice president for criminal justice at the Cato Institute, represented Dick Heller in District of Columbia v. Heller
Robert Levy, chairman of the Cato Institute, helped finance Dick Heller’s case in District of Columbia v. Heller
Alan Gura, appellate constitutional attorney, argued District of Columbia v. Heller on behalf of Dick Heller
Dick Heller, plaintiff in District of Columbia v. Heller
Joan Biskupic, author of American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Jack Rakove, professor of history and political science at Stanford University
The key cases:
2008: District of Columbia v. Heller
The key links:
Black Panther Party protest the Mulford Act at the California State Capitol in Sacramento
Dick Heller and his hat outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
Dick Heller and his gun on the job at a federal building in Washington, D.C.
Special thanks to Mark Hughes, Sally Hadden, Jamal Greene, Emily Palmer, Sharon LaFraniere, Alan Morrison, Robert Pollie, Joseph Blocher, William Baude, Tara Grove, and the Oakland Museum of California.
Leadership support for More Perfect is provided by The Joyce Foundation. Additional funding is provided by The Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation.
Supreme Court archival audio comes from Oyez®, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell.