The problems inherent in the statutory and regulatory structure discussed in my previous post lend themselves to a variety of potential reforms. In this post, I will outline many potential reforms and their intended effects on the distribution system as a whole. I recognize that some are more politically feasible than others. But, as noted, there are serious holes within the distribution system that require serious fixes. Continue reading The Current State of Federal Firearms Regulation [Part II]→
Fifty years ago, masses took to the streets to demand equal rights under law in this country, culminating in one of the most comprehensive statutory overhauls of U.S. history. The 1964 Civil Rights Act (CRA) represented a political moment, one of social inertia and progressive change. Moreover, it was an inclusive outcome, recognizing the many interwoven strands of discrimination; to root out discrimination entirely, the CRA was designed to attack from all sides, be it discrimination based upon race or sex. Fifty years have passed, but more keenly than ever do we see still-existent tears in the fabric of American society, even amongst those seeking to repair it. If we look closely at the history of the CRA, we can see the moment may continue on anomalously.
As lore would have it, the inclusion of the Sex Amendment to the CRA boiled down to a stab at political jettisoning; that is, certain Congressmen believed in earnest that adding “sex” to the protections of the Act would effectively bury it. While some parties certainly did—and continue—to believe this tale, the Sex Amendment instead stands as testament to a long-fought battle by women such as Alice Paul, whose earliest claim to fame was her status as a militant suffragist of the Pankhurst ilk. As far as Paul was concerned, where the Equal Rights Amendment had failed, the CRA might succeed. Congressman Herbert Smith—a friend to Paul whose political interests conveniently lay in deregulating the female workforce—submitted the Sex Amendment. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now-faded black-and-white pictures remind us of that famous moment in Selma, Alabama: There marched Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, physically locked together in a common front.
And so goes the histories of many of the nation’s civil-rights movements. While the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was undeniably about a long history of oppression for Blacks in America, something more was in the air. Blacks did not just receive their rights through their protests that resulted in their Civil Rights Act of 1964. Instead, they pulled together unions, churches, civic organizations, and students (all comprising many racial groups) to craft an Act that satiated a multiplicity of interests. Similarly, the more recent LGBT-rights movement built momentum by drawing in straight allies, some perhaps on the Supreme Court.
There is a longstanding consensus that teacher quality is a significant – if not determinative factor- in educational quality. Recently, lawsuits challenging tenure statutes in New York, Davids v. New York, and California, Vergara v. California, have reinvigorated discussion about the role of the judiciary in addressing this issue. Many of the legal commentators who have addressed the Vergara case, including Professors Eric Posner, Alexander Volokh, and Jonathan M. Zasloff, have argued that the thinly reasoned decision should be reversed on appeal because the state judiciary should not make the complex policy choices such a case presents. Though it doesn’t address the merits of any of the tenure cases, a recent article in the Harvard Law Review suggests that these cases do not challenge the democratic concerns of judicial competence because, if the complaint is successful, the court need only strike down the statutes. The state legislature can then draft new laws or if the legislature does not act, decision-making about these procedures will devolve to local school districts. Though school district authority is a lower level of government hierarchy, it is not necessarily more democratic. Continue reading More Local, But How Democratic? Questioning Devolution→
The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prompted considerable reflection in law schools across the nation. As well it should have. The human, political, and legal drama involved in its passage rivals few other pieces of legislation in American history. When combined with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, these pieces of legislation marked the culmination of civil rights leaders’ efforts to actualize the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process for all Americans. Yet despite the transformative nature of this legislation, it plays a minor role in the foundational law school curriculum. Instead, the achievements of the twentieth century civil rights movement are often taught through a series of Supreme Court cases spurred by admittedly brilliant appellate lawyers and legal activists who creatively strategized successful litigation tactics. No one can dismiss the magnitude of these individuals’ efforts. But often overlooked in this narrative is the role played by legislation, as well as the complex interplay of activists, policymakers, and interest groups who helped garner sufficient support to pass civil rights legislation in the face of obstinate opposition. To address these issues (and more), Columbia Law School students organized and led a seminar titled “64@50: The Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Continue reading 64@50: Student Reading Groups→
On January 22, 2015, the Winklevoss brothers announced that they were creating a new exchange for the virtual currency, Bitcoin. They hope that, unlike other Bitcoin exchanges, this one will be fully compliant with all applicable regulatory laws. While their efforts at compliance may curb some of the illegal activity surrounding Bitcoin, ultimately, it will be insufficient. Instead, Bitcoin should be regulated on a more micro-level in order to protect the average Bitcoin users.
According to the guidelines issued by the Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Bitcoin exchanges must comply with all regulations that apply to Money Services Businesses. However, these regulations only apply to the exchanges—that is, the businesses where users can turn their government-backed money into Bitcoin. While regulating these exchanges is helpful in theory, in practice, many of the exchanges have few incentives to comply. Most are hosted internationally and are run by people who retain a large degree of anonymity. Plus, many exchanges do not charge significant transaction fees and make fairly little money. So, many exchanges would cease to exist if complying with regulations would cause them to incur significant fees. Continue reading Does Bitcoin Bite?→
In the United States, firearms are a leading public health problem. Over the past decade, the total number of firearms-related fatalities has averaged approximately 31,000 deaths per year, comprised largely of firearms suicides, homicides, and unintentional or accidental deaths. In addition, it is estimated that almost 500,000 fatal and nonfatal violent crimes are committed each year with a firearm. Compared to peer developed nations, these numbers are staggering.
In order to address these problems, there has been a large movement for firearms regulation in general, and restrictions on distribution in particular. This strategy is premised on several fundamental assumptions. First, that distribution is relatively concentrated such that regulation is meaningful. Second, there are classes of individuals that are deemed particularly high-risk for violence to the extent that ownership of firearms should be limited or barred. Third, in regulating distribution, these individuals can be identified and prevented from obtaining access to firearms. And fourth, such restrictions will aid in lowering the overall prevalence of firearm fatalities and crimes in which firearms are used.