How outrageous do attacks on our rights and freedoms have to get before you throw caution to the wind, damn the torpedoes, and just sue the tar out of the bastages who are America’s great domestic enemies? Can you just stand by while the criminal-injustice anti-rights defilers of the Constitution prance around scot-free? When the intolerable acts and rights-crushing laws get bad enough, and defenders of our rights seem idle, maybe it’s time for you personally to take things into your own hands, go to court, and hold those villains accountable. Overturn the bad laws. Remove the evildoers from office for dereliction of duty. Use the courts to get Justice with a capital J! Sue the bums! Yeah, that’s the ticket! Mebbe.
Have you ever been to court, even to wait in the jury pool, or pay a traffic ticket, or to (boring!) actually watch a case? Did you like what you saw? Did it seem unjust, confusing, were the procedures a mystery, did it make you feel like a helpless flea? That’s a good thing to understand, because filing your own lawsuit is 100 times worse.
People do invent their own lawsuits from time to time. You can file an in pauperis lawsuit (a pauper’s suit, because presumably you don’t have the half million it takes to start a proper lawsuit, like, you know, with lawyers). Freelance filing may not be the worst thing you can do, but it’s damn close. Bad lawsuits make bad law. The enemies of freedom love it when a well-meaning turkey takes on the world through the courts without knowing the rules, let alone having a game plan — or the support of lawyers, assistants, scholars, researchers and even hip-pocket judges for good measure. A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge.
Everyone wants to fix injustices and stop incursions on our precious rights, but your own lawsuit is the wrong way. I’ve written about this repeatedly in response to people who ask me how to proceed. I’m not even a lawyer, I’m a writer — shows you what they know. I will say this, though, that’s better than mail I get from people who are so fed up they want to start shooting people — a far worse idea. Claire Wolfe got that right in her book, 101 Things To Do ‘Til The Revolution, when, “It’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.” Stock up on those ideas first.
As I tell my ardent correspondents, “You need legal geniuses behind the effort, a team of people not just ‘a lawyer,’ hundreds of possibilities and ramifications considered, elements for inevitable appeals built into initial pleadings, and the perfect test case structured so it can be won. No amount of personal frustration is sufficient justification for a ‘wildcat’ I’m-gonna-test-this-fool-law-and-right-the-world badly played game. Find enough of the right people to back the plan first, bankroll the effort, structure the absolutely perfect test case in the exactly right court, then go — I’m all for it. Oh, I’m sorry, that’s hard? That’s a lot of work? You don’t know if you can or how to do that? You don’t have a clue who the right people are? You just want to run with the football? Tough.”
The roots of the 2008 Heller case, the case that saved the Second Amendment, traces back to lawyers Clark Neily III and Steve Simpson at a happy hour in 2002, or even earlier, to a law-review article by Don Kates in 1983. This is not 1-man-1-shot stuff.
So what can you do?
Get your act in gear by getting to know some lawyers. Do that by going to your state (not national) gun rights groups, joining if you’re not a member, and talk with them. Learn who they know and trust in the legal community, because those are probably the good lawyers — probably (you have to decide for yourself). Find your state associations at the National Directory link at GunLaws.com.
This serves several purposes. If you own a gun you should own a lawyer too (they don’t like calling it that, but it’s just a figure of speech). When you have a lawyer you never have to say, “I want an attorney,” you get to say, “I want my attorney,” a wonderful position to be in.
How do you “get” your own lawyer? That’s the right question, and it’s surprising how many people have tons of guns, and enough ammo to sink a ship (based on weight) but no lawyer to call in emergencies (or for simpler things like suing the federal government). When you find one that seems right, you book a paid 1-hour consultation, bring a few buddies so you can split the bill and share notes afterwards, and scope out the person. If it seems right, get half a dozen business cards (for your wallet, glove box, desk, spouse and spares), and then you “have” a lawyer.
Now, instead of imaging some fool lawsuit doomed to failure, you’re preparing for intelligent defense of your rights — and yourself. And that’s a good legal strategy.
Alan Korwin is the author of nine books on gun law, including “Gun Laws of America: Every Federal Gun Law on the Books, with Plain-English Summaries.” He runs the GunLaws.com website, and is the manager of the TrainMeAZ.com campaign.