The Lawyer Who Helped Remove Mandatory Bible Readings from Public Schools Has Died

In 1963, Madalyn Murray O’Hair gained notoriety for her role in the Supreme Court case that removed mandatory Bible readings from public schools. Less noticed, but equally important, was her lawyer Leonard J. Kerpelman. Kerpelman took on her case pro bono in 1960 and successfully argued in front of the justices years later, leading to an eventual 8-1 victory.

Late last week, the 88-year-old Kerpelman died from complications from a tumor.

Leonard J. Kerpelman (Jerry Jackson – The Baltimore Sun)

“I see no constitutional objection to the study of religion, history of religion, or the study of the Bible as literature,” he told The [Baltimore] Sun in 1963. “But this ceremony is sectarian, and it is impossible to have such a ceremony that is not sectarian.”

After the decision, both client and attorney were vilified and accused of taking God out of the classroom and leading the nation down the road of atheism.

After the case was resolved, Mr. Kerpelman had few dealings with O’Hair, who left Baltimore in 1964 and disappeared in 1995. Her mutilated remains, along with those of a son and granddaughter, were identified in a remote part of Texas in 2001.

There’s an interesting passage in Ann Rowe Seaman‘s biography of O’Hair, America’s Most Hated Woman, that details the way Kerpelman ended up getting involved in this particular case in the first place:

[ACLU attorney Fred Weisgal] wanted to join [O'Hair's lawsuit] with an almost identical suit the ACLU was already involved in, School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp. The Schempps’ three children were compelled by Pennsylvania law to listen to Bible verses over the loudspeaker each day. They’d won all their suits to ban the practice, and the school district continued to appeal until it reached the Supreme Court.

Madalyn wanted her name first on the combined suits’ caption page, so it would be the citation name throughout history. Hers had an earlier docket number than the Schempps’. When Weisgal told her it was alphabetical — Abington Township would come before Murray — she blew up, and their relationship ended with Weisgal saying, “Madalyn, go fuck yourself!”

She replaced him with Leonard Kerpelman, a Baltimore native with a taste for unpopular civil liberties causes. The genial 36-year-old had just forced reform of the local jury system, after discovering that jurors were not randomly selected from voter lists but cherry-picked using their addresses.

Not hard to see why they parted ways after the victory.

Dave Silverman, the current President of American Atheists, the group O’Hair founded, issued this statement to me last night (via email):

Millions of children go to freer, more tolerant schools in part because of Mr. Kerpelman’s legal expertise. He helped make school a more open environment for atheists and theists alike. American Atheists mourns his loss.

(Thanks to Matt for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • new_atheist

    Utterly repulsive comments from Fundamentalists who are glad he’s dead – In 3…2…1…

  • advancedatheist

    Madalyn’s career as America’s alpha atheist in the 1960′s became possible because no one else wanted the job, not because of Madalyn’s superior merits as an atheist intellectual and activist. When you don’t have any competition, a mediocre but extroverted, opinionated, outspoken and reckless individual like Madalyn could step into the void and “succeed.”

    I had a similar impression of the late Paul Kurtz in the secular-humanist niche of America’s atheism market in the 1970′s and 1980′s. His writings always seemed undistinguished to me, and in at least two of his books he relates how one of his atheist friends experienced a deathbed conversion to Catholicism. Gee, thanks, Paul. Just the sort of anecdote christians love to cite about dying atheists, and in print by a source many humanists and atheists themselves consider authoritative.

    By contrast, in today’s environment, atheists even in hick towns like Tulsa’s Seth Andrews can get online, attract followings and find markets for their atheist books. If someone like Madalyn tried to start a career as an atheist firebrand now, she would face so much competition by more capable atheists that she probably would wind up as just another atheist blogger, and not in the front ranks at that.


  • raytheist

    A loss of an important figure in our collective history.

  • ShoeUnited

    “She replaced him with Leonard Kerpelman, a Baltimore native with a taste for unpopular civil liberties causes.
    The genial 36-year-old had just forced reform of the local jury system,
    after discovering that jurors were not randomly selected from voter
    lists but cherry-picked using their addresses.”

    And this is why not every lawyer is a bottom barrel scallywag. Some of them are good guys who fight for our freedoms because they believe in them. Hats off to Kerpelman and lawyers like them. And my condolences to the family’s loss. He was a good man who valued humans first.

  • ShoeUnited

    Could you please get less full of shit? Just a little? Alpha Atheist? Last I checked. Ayn Rand was still alive in the 60s. Just to name one example off the top of my head even more prominent.

    The rest of what you said I throw away because your eat your boogers.

  • Nate Frein

    Criminal lawyers get a bad rap because they have a shit job to do that needs to be done. We don’t see just how badly the justice system is stacked against most people.

  • ShoeUnited

    Agreed. And sometimes those criminals are (hold onto your butts) innocent!

    But there are bad fish in every barrel. And it’s examples like Kerpelman that show not everyone is just money grubbing. I wouldn’t envy the job of even a criminal defense lawyer. I’d have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when my client tells me how guilty he is and it’s my job to do my best to get him off. There’s a huge amount of respect for someone who believes in due process to the point that it’s the only thing keeping you from standing up in the courtroom screaming “MY CLIENT IS GUILTY! GUILTYYY! HANGIN’S TOO GOOD FOR HIM! BURNIN’S TOO KIND FOR HIM!”

    But there are good guys and bad guys everywhere. I’m just glad we’re talking about a good guy today. :)

  • Art_Vandelay

    Now who will we blame school shootings on?

  • abb3w

    Ayn Rand was more focused on riding an economic hobbyhorse than a religious one, however.

  • Kyder Dog

    How about the gun owners who let their kids have access to guns

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Your argument, rephrased:

    J.R.R. Tolkien only managed to become famous because no one else was creating and writing epic, meticulously constructed fantasies at the time. Now that numerous objectively better writers have come along, nevermind that they followed in his footsteps, Tolkien is a medicore has-been who should be ridiculed.

  • Cinnamon Chestnut

    thank you, sir. r.i.p.

  • Cinnamon Chestnut

    Mr. Frein, i agree with you. someone must do the job. idiots do not realize this until they’re the defendant.

  • Cinnamon Chestnut

    how bout blaming the judiciary who think they’re just kids having fun, and the “parents” who don’t keep up with their own kids? btw, my mother had a gun, and we never knew because she didn’t allow us to go snooping around in her room.

  • Logic Hurts

    All gun owners are good owners…until they’re not. Guns are antiquated.


    I agree. Criminal attorneys, defending unappealing clients, are part of what keeps us (relatively) free. I have vastly more respect for them than I do the corporate trolls, intent on screwing the public, for private profit.

  • Jim Jones

    > When you don’t have any competition, a mediocre but extroverted, opinionated, outspoken and reckless individual like Madalyn could step into the void and “succeed.”

    If you read what she wrote you will find she was calm, intelligent and reasonable.

    Her opponents were the opposite, and sometimes they were batshit crazy.

  • Jim Jones

    Arguable. Some would claim she wanted to be ridden like a horse.

  • Jim Jones

    No, register video games. Fox ‘news’ says they’re the real problem.

  • Mikegalanx

    Shortly after the decision, JFK was giving a speech about the likely reception of his new budget, He said “I talked to Justice Warren about my budget,and he said it was clearly Constitutional. Well, his exact words were “It hasn’t got a prayer.””

  • Albel Norax

    Would you rather have one and not need it or need one and not have one?

    And before you say ideally you wouldn’t need one ever, since when is anything, anything at all, in this world ideal?

    I, for one, would rather have two or three weapons in each room of my house, not necessarily firearms, and never have to use them or even threaten to use them, than not have them and be faced with armed robbers, or anything else of the sort.

  • Feminerd

    I’d rather need it and not have it, personally. Because if I “need” it, I’m probably in a bad situation anyways and waving a weapon around can only escalate it and make it worse. Because if I bring in a gun, I’m upping my chances of being hurt or killed. Because having a gun around means the chances of an accidental shooting by me, to me, or around me skyrocket.

    Oh, is that not the answer you expected? But you see, I’ve done my research into what having a gun means and the statistics around gun ownership.

  • Albel Norax

    I mean need as in the literal need that without it, you will die. I actually never expected an answer in general, by the way, so. xD

    Regardless, mate, it’s an opinion thing, really. I only said something because this IS a place to discuss things, near as I can tell, and I don’t believe firearms are antiquated.

    I don’t mean carrying in public, by the way, when I say I’d rather have one and not need it and so on. I meant at my home, where anyone who comes in without my permission has the intention of harming me, my family, or my wealth/possessions in some form or fashion.

    I’ll never condone carrying a firearm around in public, because honestly, as you said, it’s only going to freak people out and make a situation escalate. I’d much rather just have a small pocket knife or whatever. But that’s me. I’m a rather paranoid, distrustful man, and maybe I should work on that, but eh.

    If no one else wants to carry any sort of weapon in public, that’s fine by me, because that lessens the amount of people who could potential kill me without me being able to do much about it for whatever reason.

  • Feminerd

    And I’m talking about in my home. I have friends with concealed carry licenses, and they know I don’t allow guns in my house (especially when we’re drinking). They respect that and just leave their guns at home or in their cars. But all the stuff I mentioned about increased risks only refers to having a gun in the home, not carrying it around in public.

    And yes, this is a place to discuss things, and it is a matter of opinion, absolutely. My opinion clearly differs drastically from yours! I prefer to have the statistics on my side, personally. Granted, individual situations are not all statistically modeled, and I can imagine situations in which the benefits of having a gun at my house would theoretically outweigh the pretty massively increased risks. I’m just not in any of those situations, and I don’t think I ever will be, and I’m not willing to incur the daily increased risks on the off-chance that it might come in handy.

    I’d love it if the public were less armed. There’s a lot of stupid and/or angry people out there, and the more of them have guns the worse off we all are. I refuse to be part of that problem (a heavily armed public), though.

  • Albel Norax

    Hah! I’m one of those angry people. I’m just not stupid about it. I don’t carry any sort of weapon when I’m in a bad mood, even in my own house. I avoid people, too, because I know the training I’ve put myself through could hurt someone very, very easily if I lost control. I also work very hard on maintaining control of myself. But that’s not quite part of the discussion.

    I honestly don’t trust most statistics because people lie, and they lie a lot. Or the questions are posed in such a manner to imply something entirely different, or whatever. There’s no perfect way to measure the statistics of individual stress levels, situations, and quantify exactly how much having a weapon involved helped or hindered the survival of the people being questioned. It’s just not something that can be put to numbers.

    Then there’s stuff like census’ measuring the religious affiliations of their questionees and asking,’What religion do you belong to?’ and a great deal of people just say,’Christian’ out of habit or tradition, or maybe they think, for some reason, their peers will know they said they were atheist or Muslim, or Jewish, or Pagan, or whatever-the-Hell, and discriminate against them because of it. I know I did when I was young. It’s childish, and stupid, from an objective point, but it’s part of the human psyche to desire acceptance by one’s peers, above nearly all else, even for sociopaths like myself. I consider very few people my exact ‘peers’ because while I see everyone as equal, that doesn’t mean they’re all like me. But the few friends I have, I do indeed seek to make sure they’re pleased with my actions.

    So, sure, the statistics could say most people wished they hadn’t had a weapon when whatever happened to them happened, but that could be very well influenced by memory degradation, the infamous tunnel vision when flight-or-flight kicks in, or just general guilt over what happened, if someone was killed, despite the fact it could always, ALWAYS, be worse, in some form or fashion.

    I’m a large proponent of survival of the fittest, for obvious reasons(as I said, sociopath), so I’m just going to keep something around, just in case. My rather… unique skillset of reading peoples emotions and intentions and attention to detail(OCD and paranoia) makes me aptly suited for judging whether or not I need to even bother drawing my weapon or positioning myself near it.

    Of course, I can’t expect everyone to be like me, so I say that however you want to handle a situation like that is how you handle it,because, for better or for worse, it’s your decision and you have to live with it, or not, not me.

  • Feminerd

    Oh, these aren’t poll studies lol. They’re far more rigorous than just asking if people regretted having a weapon. They’re straight-up statistical analyses of data that’s probably pretty good- number of gun injuries/deaths in homes with guns vs. without (as determined by police data), injuries across various crimes split up by how the victim responded, etc. Pure number crunching that doesn’t have a whole lot of lying possible unless you posit a pretty vast conspiracy to make guns look bad, which seems unlikely given the generally pro-gun culture of the US.

    Now, if you still prefer to have a weapon around, that’s your call of course. But don’t dismiss the data just because you don’t like what it says.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    What people don’t generally realize is that access to a firearm actually tends to make someone dumber. It reduces the options that they believe they have. I see countless incidents where people around me become more reckless because they think they can shoot “whatever made that noise”.

    As the saying goes, when you’re holding a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

  • Albel Norax

    Fair enough. I didn’t know which statistics you were using; there are quite a few of them.

    Which, by the way, you’d be rather surprised by the amount of people in the US that do not like firearms or weapons of any kind, and those numbers are on the rise. It’s just that rednecks and firearm fanatics are usually much, much louder than the people who either don’t care either way what federal law is(me), and people who want firearms completely abolished in the US. I know many of the latter, and put a name and face to at least twenty. I live in Texas, as well, so that’s quite a feat, going by the typical view of Southern states.

  • Feminerd

    Hey, I live in Texas too! And to be fair, while I’m quite unfond of guns, I don’t want to see them banned. Regulated, and far less of them, yes. But I know too many people who actually hunt and/or target shoot to want to ban them altogether. And yeah, there are a lot of statistics and polls floating around that are less than, er, reputable or terribly believable due to poor questions or weird massaging of the numbers.

    Now, a handgun ban for civilians and strict licensing requirements on all other types of weaponry, combined with a registry? Forcing all gun sellers to check that their buyer is licensed before selling them a deadly weapon? That I’ll throw my entire weight behind.

  • Albel Norax

    Actually, by federal law, all firearms dealers are required to do background checks on everyone they sell to. It’s why you cannot simply decide to get a rifle one day, walk in, plop a stack of cash on the counter, point at one, and walk out with it. At least, that’s as far as *I* know. Haven’t really run into any laws saying otherwise, however.

    Now, whether or not firearms dealers actually DO background checks and ID-checks is an entirely different matter, because I know of a few places I could walk into with a few hundred dollars, point at a .50 handgun, and walk out with it after signing some papers and showing my ID.

    Let me pose you a question, though. Would you also vote to force anyone with PTSD, including war veterans who are still in the military, and police officers with a particular gruesome case history, to be unable to own a personal firearm? As in, one that is not issued by their department/division of the police/military, respectively.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    As I understand it, dealers yes, private sellers at for instance gun shows, no. Wasn’t that was one of the low hanging fruit Obama hoped to pick?

  • Albel Norax

    I honestly don’t know. I really don’t pay attention to politics, because almost everything we see, whether we’re watching on the internet, tv, or in person, is perfectly and painstakingly crafted to elicit exact responses in the audience. It’s all lies, wrapped in lies, wrapped in twisted truth.

    Besides, presidents have been nothing more than figureheads for the past twenty, thirty years, so it doesn’t matter what he or any other prospective president says. It’s all Congress that controls that, and whoever funds the Congress members’ campaigns control them. It’s just a massive clusterfuck that pisses me off every time I look at it, so I don’t, because I can’t do anything about it. Not yet, anyway.

  • Cadlax

    Noo, you either respect the guns power or you don’t. If you leave your gun hanging around the house. You are a shitty gun owner. Nice strawman though..

  • kelemi

    Just ask Elisabeth. Bet Barbara Walters is glad she changed jobs.

  • Carmen

    Lawyers provide more free work than most other professions. Many of us usually have at least one pro bono case at any given time. And that doesn’t count the involuntary pro bono work.

  • Jim Jones

    > I’ll never condone carrying a firearm around in public, because honestly, as you said, it’s only going to freak people out and make a situation escalate.

    But the whole anti-gun-register movement relies on everyone open carrying.

  • Feminerd

    Not background checks. Actual, “show me your unexpired license that looks kinda like a drivers license” checks. Said license would verify that the holder passed a background check and gun safety course within the past 1-5 years (renew license every year? every two years? how often? that’s the sort of detail that needs to be worked out in legislation). And for everyone, not just licensed dealers. If you sell a weapon at a gun show to an unqualified buyer, you are breaking the law as much as the buyer is. That sort of law.

    And actually, you can do that. The background check takes ~10 minutes. And I, too, know many places I could walk in, hand over a few hundred/thousand in cash, and walk out again with my brand new deadly weapon.

    Yes, absolutely I would ban people with PTSD from owning personal firearms. Military personnel are around weaponry, but they don’t have daily access to it unsupervised generally- they have military weapons that are placed in weapons lockers and must be checked out for training, but they don’t have to have them (nor should they) in their homes nor while walking around the general public. PTSD can be treated fairly successfully, and I think if a psychiatrist or psychologist signed off on gun ownership it could be re-allowed, but the default should absolutely be no. The last person you want with a gun is an angry, frightened, military-trained person in the grip of a flashback! And I think this blog post is an excellent argument why.

    I’m not sure what you mean by police officers with particularly gruesome case histories. If you mean, they’ve had a history of excessive violence/shooting people, probably they shouldn’t have personal weapons (obviously this is subjective based on what beats they patrol and the situations for the shootings). If you mean they suffer from PTSD, see above about military personnel. If you mean they see ugly things, but haven’t suffered clinical symptoms, then I don’t see why they should be banned from owning guns, but they should be licensed and registered just like every other gun owner and their weapons.

  • Albel Norax

    >.> That is pretty retarded. I didn’t know that. Wow. I don’t know anyone that thinks they shouldn’t have to register their weapons; only that they think they should be allowed to have one in their home.

  • Albel Norax

    The police officers with gruesome case histories, as in, they worked on very gruesome cases, i.e., now have PTSD because of it. Not everyone who has PTSD is military, you know. But thank you for your answer.

    As for the blog post, well… You aren’t allowed to handle firearms, even in your assigned base or armory, if you have PTSD so severe that the VA or other military doctor has ruled you unfit for duty, and that WILL show up on a background check.

    However, I’d like to point out that people suffering from PTSD often do NOT lose control when they have flashbacks, especially when they know it’s fake. Usually, when they do, it’s because it’s compounded by another psychological issue that’s going untreated because the PTSD seems to overshadow everything else. My stepfather has been on eight, nine combat tours. Yet, the only way I can tell if he’s having a flashback is that his knuckles turn white from gripping the wheel of a car, or clenching his fist in on themselves, and that hasn’t happened in years. In fact, I’d go as far to say he doesn’t even have PTSD anymore, and hasn’t for some time.

    I, for one, also have PTSD from some childhood things that I’d rather not go into detail about. But, I’ve never had a flashback. Not a waking one, anyway. I do have an aversion to being touched now, though, and so on. I have all the symptoms of PTSD except, well, I’m not violent. I may be angry, and I may like to spar and wrestle with my friends, but other than that, I have never hurt anyone, despite me having this for over half my life.

    I have to say, anyone who fears their own capabilities, period, whether they’re insane or not, isn’t qualified to say anything on the matter. If you can’t even deal with the fact that you COULD snap and hurt someone, then you WILL, because you are incapable of confronting the darker aspects of your mind and guarding against them. And this is something I am acquainted with very, very intimately. Sociopath AND PTSD, remember?

    Keeping someone with PTSD from owning a weapon, even a small caliber handgun for personal home defense, just because they COULD snap is like putting in jail because he COULD kill someone. Why punish someone for something they haven’t done?

    I’ve received no treatment(I refuse to let a stranger dictate whether or not I should be locked in a padded room or not), I’ve never given anyone reason to suspect I have PTSD. Maybe three, four people on this planet know what happened to me when I was 8, and none of them know I have PTSD. I also have a very strong sense of what is right, what is wrong, and what isn’t for the government to decide.

    So, throughout this entire conversation, you’ve learned quite a bit about me, my views, and my background. Would you put a law in place to keep me from having a firearm in my home?

  • Feminerd

    Not being allowed to carry a firearm isn’t a punishment.

    I think that, given your background, you should really talk to a psychotherapist, even though you do seem to have yourself firmly held together. Not just for guns- you do suffer from PTSD somewhat, and you do admit to being sociopathic, and it could just make you more comfortable with yourself. I don’t see you being “locked in a padded room” for seeking out support- that’s what therapists are there for! Of course anyone can snap, of course everyone has ‘darkness inside’: how many people who currently own weaponry do you really think have come to terms with that? How many really, truly think they won’t, can’t, snap? Guns are only safe until they aren’t. People are only safe until they aren’t. People with guns are exceptionally unsafe when they do snap.

    You will note, of course, that I said people with PTSD should pass a psych verification, not be banned forever from owning guns. Your PTSD symptoms aren’t violent, and you don’t show any propensity towards violence, so it shouldn’t stop you from owning a weapon. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have to prove it, though.

  • Feminerd

    Really? I know a fuckton of people who think that gun registration is the beginning of confiscation and government tyranny and jack-booted thugs kicking puppies. Yes, that’s hyperbolic even on top of their rhetoric, but not by much.

  • Albel Norax

    Oh… Dear gods. Eeeeuuuugh. Kill it. Kill it with fire. o.e

  • Albel Norax

    Fair enough. Many people would consider it a punishment, though. I’m on the fence on that one.

    As for seeing a therapist so I’m more comfortable with myself… Eh. I’ve been comfortable with myself for years. It was only when I was young that I really had any issues with it, and those manifested in a massive fear of the dark and a lot of other things considered normal, but also some other, more abnormal things, like being antisocial.

    I don’t think very many people at all, period, have come to terms with the fact that they’re dangerous. Truly come to terms with it, not just know it, logically, somewhere in their consciousness, but truly KNOW that they could, potentially, harm, maim, or even kill one or more people in a blind rage.

    I don’t think gun control should be tightened very much(although I do think we need SOME regulation, like a limit on how many rounds you can buy, for example, if there isn’t one already), because if you take away bullets, people will use knives. Take away knives, they have sticks. No more sticks, rocks. No more rocks, they have their fists. Humanity is an inherently violent species by necessity of survival and evolution. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t try to lower the amount of needless violence in the world, because we should. It’s just a fact of our species that there will always be assault, murder, and attempted murder, if not more than that, for many more centuries until we can figure out exactly what the Hell is going on.

    I may have a rather low opinion of humanity in general, but I think I can say with certainty that there will be pointless violence for centuries, if not millenia, to come, regardless of whether or not we take firearms out of the hands of unstable, or just plain psychotic, men and women.

  • Jim Jones
  • Feminerd

    Oh, I agree with you there. Pointless violence is a thing our species does a lot and quite well.

    But! Guns make it worse. Guns make murderous impulses turn into murder without any time to think. Guns make it possible to kill 10 or 20 people on a killing spree, instead of 2-4 with a knife. It’s a lot harder to accidentally throw a knife in the air and accidentally kill someone, or aim at someone and miss and kill a neighbor/innocent bystander. And gun accidents kill people (especially children) far more often than knife or or stick or fist accidents. Less guns would mean less deaths, less maiming, less injury. It wouldn’t bring it down to zero- I don’t think anything can do that. But it would help, and help a lot.

  • Albel Norax

    Actually, it’s more of a cultural thing that keeps gun violence down. Take Switzerland, for example. Something like 80% of the households have firearms in them, and they have some of the lowest amounts of gun violence in the world. However, England also has nearly no gun violence, but far, far more other kinds of violent crime, comparatively.

    Which, by the way, speaking of accidental deaths and injuries from blades, I have a scar across my collar bone where I had an accident with a blade where just half an inch above would have killed me very nearly on the spot.

    Besides which, America is such a massive country that we have so many different cultures in so many different areas that one type of gun control will work best in some regions and states, but be counterproductive, even harmful, in other regions. For example, in Chicago, I would be all for some forms of gun control. However, in, say, Tennessee, I would relax the gun control a little.

    As for the killing spree bit, a blood-crazed psychopath is still going to kill far more people than a PTSD-riddled vet going through a flashback. For example…

    Whereas the Fort Hood shooting, with a soldier being the shooter, thirteen people died.

  • Feminerd

    Ah, but how often does the UK have anyone who kills more than 4 people at a time (the technical definition of a mass killing)? How often does the US? It all adds up here. Someone killing “only” four people at a time doesn’t even make the news anymore.

    And in Switzerland, they are prohibited from having handguns in their homes, they are all military trained (universal service) so we know they’ve at least had gun safety classes, and they’re allowed to move a gun but not carry it. That is, if you are going to a shooting range, you may have it in your car (unloaded), go to the range, then go home. You can’t just have it in your car. If the US had the laws Switzerland has (must keep safety classes up to date, must register with government, no handguns, one weapon only generally, no carrying in public, etc), I’d be a happy camper.

    Switzerland still has a higher gun violence and general violence rate than its neighbors, largely fueled by access to guns. They’re actually talking about tightening their gun laws because of it.

  • Albel Norax

    The federal law on carrying without a ‘permit’ is actually somewhat similar. You may carry a weapon in your car as long as it’s unloaded. You may even have ammunition in the vehicle as well, as long as it’s in a separate area, like, say, the trunk. This is generally for shooting ranges.

    I can actually agree with the laws you want imposed. I think the only one we DON’T is the safety classes bit, which I am all for, in every respect. In fact, I think all citizens, whether they want to have a firearm or not, should have at least a cursory class in high school or college or something, just to say,’hey, if you ever DO have one, keep the safety on at all times and NEVER point it at someone’. For a permit, a legitimate, full-fledged course is required. At least, that would be how I would do things.

    As for the US, mass murders are more common simply because we have a much, much larger area, as I said previously. Look at the *percentage* of mass murders rather than the numerical, raw amount.

  • Feminerd

    Of course percentages matter! According to Wikipedia, the US intentional homicide rate is 4.7/100,000 inhabitants, which is on the low end of the global scale but by no means good. The UK falls in at 1.2/100,000, which is ~1/4 the homicide rate. Now, granted, one can argue that this is due to all sorts of factors, but I think one of the big ones is that the US has a lot more guns. I couldn’t find the stats for mass murders, but I’ll keep digging. I do know Australia, since implementing its strict gun control over a decade ago, has had precisely zero mass murders since then. Not one. Before that, they had them at a rate of ~1/year. I find that quite telling.

    And I do like your suggestion of universal gun safety courses in high school, probably as part of a general health class or something, with much fuller courses for people who want to get permits.

  • Albel Norax

    Heh. Well, I hate to cut this discussion short, but I honestly can’t think of anything else to add to it, and I hate repeating previous points.

    It has been fun, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you.

  • Feminerd

    It has. Thank you as well. Have a good day!

  • 1sk8trsmom

    Mr. Mehta,
    Thank you for this write up of my Dad’s most well known case. I asked him in July of this year, before he became so ill, if he had ever regretted taking on this case because the political fallout from it had essentially ended his career. He said no.
    He was a devoted Constitutionalist who saw the decision as critical to halting the erosion of the US Constitution, a document he considered unparalleled in its wisdom and foresight as to what was necessary for the establishment, evolution, and maintenance of a true Democracy.
    When he died, he remained a steadfast supporter of the US, civil rights, and freedom of religion.
    His take on democracy can be summed up in this loosely paraphrased passage: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (attributed to Voltaire, by Beatrice Hall).
    He was an honest man and I am proud to be his daughter.