24 Hours Prior to Heller Case

Friend Alan Korwin, publisher and architect of The Gun Owner's Guide series and co-author of Supreme Court Gun Cases dropped this note to his email list.  I'm taking the liberty of posting it here.  Hats off to him and the guys in line tonight. 


Chris Knox




Full contact info at end

DATELINE: Washington, D.C. 3/17/08

24 Hours Prior to Heller Case

by Alan Korwin, Co-Author
Supreme Court Gun Cases

More people are on line in front of the U.S. Supreme Court for the D.C.
gun ban case tomorrow than seats are available, and the temperature is
hovering above freezing, but that's not stopping them.

Bob Blackmer and I were the first to arrive, Sunday night about 5 p.m.,
answering the big question of — Would two nights in advance be enough
— aside from did we have endurance to pull that off.
A few moments later, Jason and Dan arrived from Pennsylvania with
sleeping bags and the same question in mind — would they be in time for
the biggest Second Amendment case in the nation's history, and, yes,
they were. With no one else around, and the Sup. Ct. police officer
pumped for all the info he might have (precious little), Bob and I left
for our hotel, confident that we would be in time in the a.m., and Jason
and Dan became numbers one and two in line, a distinction the media
would dwell on the next day. (Reporters kept zeroing in on Jason since
he was number one in line, and fortunately, he was articulate, a poli
sci grad, not the bubba the media so often isolates as a "typical"

Because the line formed two nights in advance (kind of), and because
local ABC-TV carried that news (with images)and bloggers spread it,
people began arriving first at midnight, and then at the crack of dawn,
panicked about access. Bob awoke in the hotel and departed in time to
arrive well before 8 a.m., making him 7th, and I ran around looking for
propane for his porta-heater (the airline allowed the heater but not the
fuel). I was fortunate to have a reserved seat, so it didn't matter that
I arrived at 10 a.m., and that didn't matter either, since I was now
#16. I was the only person, the whole day, schmoozing on the line,
running errands for people, enjoying the atmosphere, but with a reserved
seat and a bed waiting for me at night.

People had full blown lounge chairs, sleeping bags, blankets, food… a
regular shanty town developed and as police had advised, the line self
regulated. Physical position was a non-issue, since everyone knew their
place, and Sarah, a Harvard law student, took it on herself to start a
list and gather everyone's arrival time and position number. People
milled around at will, confident they would not lose their cherished
place in line. It was a community.

Almost everyone was a law student, almost no one would qualify as a
"gunnie" (well, maybe a small handful) but nearly everyone was on the
side of Heller, advocating for a strong Second Amendment. The
conversations were electric, a bunch of well educated, thoughtful,
intelligent people self selected for a historic moment. When was the
last time you saw a line of people hanging out reading legal briefs?

The promise was for 50 seats for the public, but the Marsahll's office
was clear to me that this number could change, and would only be known
in the morning, giving a distinct feeling it would shrink as
"dignitaries" decided to attend at the last minute.

By 2:30 p.m. Monday, today, the day before the case, 32 people were in
line, neatly numbered thanks to Sarah (and everyone in line ahead of
them). The lucky (maybe) 50th person arrived at 4:45 p.m., and folks
continued to arrive and queue up, hoping against hope for a greater
number of seats, or line abandoners.

No paid place holders were apparent.

The most novel legal theories were:

— The case could be decided on standing, with the Court concluding
Heller didn't really have any after all, and the case falling apart on
those grounds (highly unlikely, but it shook up conversations);

— The Court would parse "keep" and "bear," finding an individual
right, but applying strict scurtiny to "keep" and rational basis
standard of review for "bear," effectively gutting the Second

— A decision narrower than everyone expects would get a nine to zero
affirmation of an individual right (a seven-to-two split got a lot of

— The Solicitor General would recant his position (calling for reduced
scrutiny and a remand of the case), artfully saying that was a mistake
or oversight, an extremely unlikely but appealing (to some) possibility
that would get Clements out of supposed hot water and be talked about,
well, forever;

— No one expects anything but an individual right finding, but the
level of scrutiny for any law anywhere was up for grabs;

— Obviously, no one has a clue, but you get the idea of what was going
on in the cold, windy, sleep deprived, hard scrabble concrete world of
Hellertown in front of the Court.

As for me, I'm sun burned, exhausted, undernourished, but at least in a
hotel lobby, getting ready for what sleep I can and an early start to
what will be an amazing day tomorrow. I'll relieve Bob so he can use the
Court restroom to shuck his thermals, freshen up, stash his goods in the
Court lockers, grab some chow in the Court cafeteria (great food, low
low subsidized prices), and join the rabble in the cheap seats

Written without adequate review or a spell checker, I reserve the right
to change any of this… will attempt a swift review of the orals as
soon after as I can muster.


Bloomfield Press, Phoenix
All posts will be on the website… soon.