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December 10, 2008

Lawyers, guns and literature

Image New to the Suits & Sentences book shelf: Gun Control on Trial by Brian Doherty, an account of the D.C. v Heller case in which the Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia's strict gun ban and upheld an individual right to bear arms.

Many words have been written about this case. Many. Words. And Doherty's slim 126-page account comes with a distinct point of view. He is a senior editor of Reason magazine, and the book itself is published by the liberarian-minded Cato Institute, which had some hand in the case. So you know where he's coming from.

But for all that the book is a brisk read, and it has the kind of direct observation and insider detail that can help bring even a well-plumbed case back to life. Doherty describes, for instance, the improbably named Dane vonBreichenruchardt as a "thick, intense, walrus-mustachioed man (who) served throughout the case as friend, adviser and right-hand man to plaintiff Dick Heller." He observes the public relations strategizing of gun-rights attorney Alan Gura, described at one point as "wearing a grey sweatshirt (and) sporting boyishly tousled dark hair," and he quotes one gun-rights advocate as fearing named plaintiff Heller would go off message and start publicly opining that "I want guns in case the government starts getting on my nerves."

There's some fine material here, including accounts of the moot court sessions that helped prepare the gun-rights advocates for their big day and an appreciation for the relationship beween legal and public relations tactics.


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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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