After Defeats, Gun Control Forces Enlist Big Law Firms

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The gun lobby has racked up crucial victories in Congress and the Supreme Court, and won again when Donald Trump won the presidential election. On the defensive, gun control advocates are developing a plan to chip away at the gun lobby’s growing clout by teaming up with corporate law firms, the New York Times reports. After the Orlando nightclub massacre and other mass shootings, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Covington & Burling; Arnold & Porter; and four other prominent law firms formed a coalition with gun control groups that until now have worked largely on their own. Together, the firms are committing tens of millions of dollars in free legal services from top corporate lawyers who typically bill clients at least $1,000 an hour. The effort is highly unusual in its scale.

Although law firms often donate time to individual causes, the number and prominence of the firms in the new coalition are unheard-of. Others are expected to join in the coming months. It is the first time in decades that rival corporate firms, more accustomed to challenging regulation than championing it, have joined to file litigation around such a polarizing social issue as guns. The gun coalition plans to pursue new legal strategies to avoid previous pitfalls. It is focusing on courts and state regulatory agencies, among the few places where it might gain some traction. The coalition is drafting lawsuits and preparing regulatory complaints that could be announced as soon as next month, says the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which helped form the coalition with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brennan Center for Justice, a legal think tank at New York University School of Law. The coalition will seek to overturn state laws that have gone largely unchallenged, including policies that force businesses to allow guns on their property. The group also plans to mount the first formal challenges to congressional restrictions on publishing government data on gun violence.

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