Nadine Strossen has written, lectured, and practiced extensively in the areas of constitutional law, civil liberties, and international human rights. From 1991 through 2008 she served as president of the American Civil Liberties Union, the first woman to head the nation’s largest and oldest civil liberties organization. Professor Strossen retains leadership positions with the ACLU as a member of its National Advisory Council and Co-Chair of its Campaign for the Future.
The National Law Journal has twice named Professor Strossen one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.” In 1996, Working Woman Magazine listed her among the “350 Women Who Changed the World 1976–1996.” In 1997, Upside Magazine included her in the “Elite 100: 100 Executives Leading The Digital Revolution.” In 1998, Vanity Fair Magazine included Professor Strossen in “America’s 200 Most Influential Women.” In 1999, Ladies’ Home Journal included her in “America’s 100 Most Important Women.” In 2005, Professor Strossen was honored by the University of Tulsa College of Law and the Tulsa Law Review, which made her scholarly work the subject of their Fifth Annual Legal Scholarship Symposium titled “Nadine Strossen: Scholar as Activist.”
Professor Strossen’s writings have been published in many scholarly and general interest publications (more than 250 published works). Her book, Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights (Scribner, 1995), was named by The New York Times as a “Notable Book” of 1995 and was republished in 2000 by NYU Press, with a new introduction by the author. Her coauthored book, Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex: Hate Speech, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties (NYU Press, 1995), was named an “outstanding book” by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America.
Professor Strossen graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College (1972) and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School (1975), where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Before becoming a law professor, she practiced law for nine years in Minneapolis (her hometown) and New York City.
Question: Does the A.C.L.U. avoid property rights and 2nd Amendment cases?
Nadine Strossen: Well, on the right to bear arms, the ACLU's position is that there is not a fundamental civil liberty to unregulated gun ownership and that is separate and apart from the big constitutional law debate that is going on now in a case before the Supreme Court and it is important for people to know that the only past Supreme Court decisions that have discussed this issue and the vast majority of scholarship and lower courts and historians conclude that the Second Amendment was intended only to protect the right to bear arms in the context of a well regulated militia. For us, that is of interest, but it is a separate question from should…do we think that a statute should be passed to protect unregulated gun ownership and the answer is no. To me, that is not so surprising because we even when it comes to something that we are classically associated with such as freedom of speech, we don’t say that there can never be any restrictions. Actually no right is absolute except freedom of thought and freedom of belief, but once it gets out of your hand and into the world, the government may justifiably impose limits in very narrow circumstances. So, if the government over regulated or discriminatorily or arbitrarily enforced regulations on gun ownership, we would be there. I mean that would be consistent with our general concepts of due process and in fact we have often collaborated including post 09/11 with the National Rifle Association Guns Owners of America, The Second Amendment Foundation, because particular actions that have been taken by the government against their members do in fact violate many rights, including to take some examples that come from earlier during the Clinton administration, the Waco and Ruby Ridge were well publicized examples of really a shocking government over reaching by federal agencies that were violating their Fourth Amendment rights against search and seizure using dipropionate force, shooting to kill people who are simply suspected of exercising what is after all a legally protected right to bear arms and there have been many examples of people's privacy being violated because they are exercising their now lawful right to own guns. The gun owners organizations have worked very closely with the ACLU in opposing government surveillance, the so called REAL ID act that would create a national identity card in effect. There is a lot of overlapping issues even beyond that core issue of what to extent can the government directly regulate gun ownership.
Recorded On: 2/14/08