Gun control activists have been broadly unsuccessful on the legislative and judicial fronts, forcing them to devise alternative methods of curtailing the Second Amendment rights of Americans. One tactic involves attempting to influence the career trajectory of future lawyers.
A new campaign seeks to persuade law students to pledge never to represent the firearms industry or other pro-gun interests in their future legal practice. It is yet another example of how anti-gun activists are increasingly looking to achieve their ultimate policy ends by undermining the industry itself, as well as attempting to delegitimize the entire culture of responsible gun ownership common to much of American society.
“I Will Not Work For…”
According to an April 27 press release announcing the campaign, new lawyers are “often forced” by their firms to represent “irresponsible” members of the firearms industry. To combat this alleged (and allegedly problematic) state of affairs, gun control activists have begun promoting a pledge among current law students. Its operative language reads as follows:
“I will not work for any firm that requires me to advocate on behalf of the gun industry or gun lobby. I will instead prioritize firms that actively fight gun violence and the industry that propagates it.”
The campaign thus seeks not only to discourage soon-to-be lawyers from providing legal representation to the firearms industry and other pro-gun interests, but also actively encourages them to attack those interests—to “kneecap” and “put the squeeze on” gun manufacturers, in the words of the left-of-center American Independent. The ultimate objective is as much to make major law firms think twice about taking on pro-gun clients as it is to recruit individual signatories.
The ”Law Student Gun Safety Pledge” is a joint project of the Giffords Law Center and March for Our Lives, two of the most prominent and well-funded gun control activist groups in the country. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit Giffords Law Center and its affiliated 501(c)(4) Giffords raised a combined $20.1 million in 2021, while the 501(c)(4) March for Our Lives Action Fund and its affiliated 501(c)(3) March for Our Lives Foundation raised a combined $5.3 million that same year—though that number presumably includes $1.75 million that the March for Our Lives Foundation transferred to its sister 501(c)(4) arm.
These groups have reportedly held campus events to promote the pledge at some of the country’s most well-known law schools, including UC Berkeley School of Law, Cardozo School of Law (Yeshiva University), CUNY School of Law, Vanderbilt Law School, and Yale Law School. There are plans to expand the campaign to more schools this fall. Giffords Law Center deputy chief counsel David Pucino told the American Independent that the message being conveyed to future lawyers is that not “anyone is entitled to your representation,” most especially those “reprehensible” members of the firearms industry who supposedly “aid and abet the gun violence epidemic.”
The Activist’s Fallback
More broadly, the anti-gun pledge being promoted to America’s law students is illustrative of a couple of themes that are common to many issue advocates, but which have become especially pronounced within the world of gun control activism.
First, when activists are unsuccessful at achieving their goals through traditional legislative and judicial routes—as gun control advocates largely have been—many turn to alternative means that they hope will ultimately achieve their desired ends. This has manifested itself in a multi-pronged attack on the firearms industry itself, with the rationale apparently being that if actual legal constraints on gun ownership are frequently a political and/or constitutional non-starter, practical commercial constraints would be the next-best thing. It’s cynical and rather undemocratic, but to a dyed-in-the-wool activist it can seem rational.
The anti-gun pledge—and its hoped-for impact on law firm clientele—can also be viewed as part of a broader effort to delegitimize firearms within American cultural and business life by painting pro-gun interests as categorically unworthy of mainstream legal representation. It’s the new theater in the messaging war. Such societal “de-normalization” is the true long-term prerequisite to achieving the comprehensive gun control desired by many of today’s activists.
This article originally appeared in Legal Insurrection on June 22, 2023.