TIME California

Cheerleaders Would Get Minimum Wage Under California Legislation

Some say cheerleaders are effectively paid less than minimum wage

New legislation in California would protect cheerleaders for professional sports teams from receiving low pay that some in the industry say amounts to less than minimum wage. The bill, the first of its kind in the nation, passed the California State Senate Monday and awaits the signature of Governor Jerry Brown.

Cheerleaders are often not considered team employees and are paid only for the time they perform on game days, not the hours spent rehearsing and appearing in promotional materials, proponents of the bill said. The legislation would require that California teams pay cheerleaders at least minimum wage for all the hours they work and offer them overtime pay and sick leave.

Read More: Pay Cheerleaders What They’re Worth

“Everyone who works hard to provide a great game day experience deserves the same basic level of dignity and respect on the job, starting with simply being paid for their work,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who authored California’s legislation, said in a statement.

Sharon Vinick, a lawyer who helped former Oakland Raiders cheerleaders sue their onetime employer, praised the bill in an interview with the Associated Press, but said that not paying professional cheerleaders was already illegal under existing state law.

TIME Crime

U.S. Police Killed Someone in Mental or Emotional Crisis Every 36 Hours This Year, Report Says

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In most cases, police were called not because of a crime but by a concerned bystander or loved one

Reporting released by the Washington Post on June 30 depicts an apparently stark reality when it comes to confrontations between police and people with mental illness in the U.S. The article draws from the newspaper’s tracking of every fatal police shooting in the country in the first six moths of 2015 — 462 in all — to present an in-depth look at those confrontations involving disturbed or distressed individuals.

During that time, police killed someone in mental or emotional crisis every 36 hours, including three men within 10 hours on April 25, the Post reports.

In most of those cases, the paper says, officers were not called to the scene because of reports of a crime but were rather responding to concerned bystanders or loved ones. Out of the 124 shootings examined in the report, 50 involved explicitly suicidal individuals. In 45 cases, police were explicitly asked for medical assistance or called after the individual had attempted to get medical assistance elsewhere. Nearly a dozen of those killed were veterans, and several suffered from PTSD.

Many of the responsible police agencies do not train their officers adequately to deal with distressed people, the article concludes. According to the Police Executive Research Forum, officers in training spend up to 60 hours learning to handle a gun and only eight hours each learning to neutralize taut situations and interact with mentally ill individuals. In fact, many of the tactics learned in training, such as shouting commands, can worsen the situation for already fragile people.

“This a national crisis,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told the Post. “We have to get American police to rethink how they handle encounters with the mentally ill. Training has to change.”

Read more at the Washington Post

TIME society

Why We Must Teach Law to Those Who Need It Most

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Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

At the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, we encourage families to join their loved ones' defense team

When I heard about the suicide of Kalief Browder, a teenager who was charged with stealing a backpack and served three years in brutal Rikers Island until the charge against him was dropped, I thought about the shared culpability of his death by the criminal court system.

Police may have racially profiled Browder and wrongfully arrested him; but a prosecutor decided to pursue charges on patchy evidence and drag the case out for years; a judge set bail at $3,000, a bar his family could not afford; a previous plea deal — when he thought he had no defense against a charge of stealing a truck for a joy ride — meant that he was put in jail when the backpack charge was leveled. No wonder so many people think it’s impossible to have their fair day in court. More than 95% of cases like this are resolved with plea deals.

While police in the streets or inhumane conditions in the prisons have been focuses of social justice movements, the machinery between arrest and incarceration — the courts — have remained a social justice blind spot.

In San Jose, California, where I’m from, families have started use the science of community organizing to penetrate the court system. Families who have loved ones facing charges meet on a weekly basis; support each other; and share knowledge about what helps defense attorneys and what sways judges and juries. They form a network behind the person who has been arrested.

It is a communal counterbalance to the isolation of the court system. At the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, we call the approach participatory defense — essentially encouraging communities to engage in the justice system, rather then waiting for the courts to do what it will with loved ones.

The essential agents of change don’t have to be lawyers or judges. Our meetings are facilitated by people who first came for help on their own cases or the cases of loved ones, volunteers who have transformed from isolated mothers watching their sons get chewed up by the courts to vocal navigators for other families.

As the director of a community center where we host the meetings every Sunday, I had no intention of getting involved in court organizing. When we started eight years ago, we were doing police accountability work. But we realized there was a common denominator among the people who came to our meetings: when facing a criminal charge, they needed a compass to help them harness community power to fight the charges. So we extended that community-organizing ethic to the court process.

The tangible impact of family and community participation on cases is undeniable. We have seen acquittals, charges dismissed and reduced, prison terms changed to rehabilitation programs, even life sentences taken off the table. When we tally up the original maximum sentencing possibilities against the “time served” from all of our cases collectively over six years, we see over 1,800 years of time saved.

One of the co-founders of the approach, Blanca Bosquez, started because of her son Rudy. Like Kalief, Rudy was 16 when he was arrested, charged with robbery based on a flimsy investigation. His backpack, which was stolen a year prior, was allegedly found near the crime scene. The prosecutor claimed that Rudy was the ringleader of a teenage robbery crew, but his mom knew this couldn’t be the case: Rudy was severely mentally delayed, had the mind of an 8-year-old, and required 24-hour care.

Blanca quarterbacked a community-wide penetration into the court system with her large extended family and friends. They gathered critical medical and school records showing Rudy’s mental challenges, packed every courtroom, offered testimony to the judge about Rudy’s care requirements and the role specific family members played in his well-being.

Rather then keeping him in jail while the case was going on, Rudy was released on home detention. Though he had only been in juvenile hall a few days, Rudy was visibly shaken. It was the first time he had been away from his mother since birth. He didn’t know how to use the knobs for the shower.

And while he was home, “Team Rudy” continued to press: they reviewed the police interrogation video, and “confession” to help their public defender. The officers and even the defense attorney initially knew nothing of Rudy’s mental challenges. Several times the officers asked Rudy if he was high because of a slurred speech that came from his condition.

Within weeks, Rudy’s felony-level charges were dropped. After this battle, Blanca thought other families should know how they, too, could do something to change the outcomes of their own cases.

As more families have engaged in this practice, we have seen patterns arise in where a family’s intervention makes the most sense. For example, after arrest, we ask families to write a statement about the incident and arrest, preserving any information that could be helpful to the defense.

In preparation for a bond hearing, we gather testimonials of community ties — essentially what that detained person has in their life, and the impact on that person and others if he or she had to be away during the adjudication of the case. Would jobs be lost? An elder left high and dry because a caretaker is gone? Supporters also share their role in ensuring the person attends court hearings. What we do is to strip away the mythology that people facing charges are islands, rather then people embedded in communities.

If a case is heading to trial, families are encouraged to review documents unearthed during the discovery process, such as police reports, to point out inconsistencies or false statements. If the aim is to reduce a charge or a sentence during the penalty phase, families create “social biography” packets, which arm the defense attorney with arguments about future prospects like housing, employment, or educational opportunities.

One of the most effective cases I’ve seen involved a single father named Carnell. He had pled guilty to a low-level drug charge, but because of prior convictions from a long-forgotten past, he faced five years in prison. His greatest worry about returning to jail was that his three daughters would be put in the foster system. We gave him a camera, and he took pictures of his typical day as a father — making the girls breakfast, taking them to school and after-school programs, helping them with homework. His defense attorney used the photo essay during the sentencing phase, and instead of prison, Carnell was sentenced to a six-month outpatient program so he could keep his family together.

Of course, we know there are limits to how much we can fight the court system’s default tool of incarceration. For example, if someone is found guilty of a charge with a mandatory minimum, a social biography packet won’t change that sentence. The judge has no discretion.

But what participatory defense will do is create a ground-up movement where people are “looking under the hood” of the court system, and seeing where change needs to happen. People see their own capacity — and their community’s collective capacity — to bend seemingly immovable institutions like the courts. While that is not a new concept, it’s a potent reminder how we truly are stronger together then alone. And case by case, we hope we’re building a movement that could one day end mandatory-minimum sentences.

Raj Jayadev is the director of Silicon Valley De-Bug, which hosts the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project. Jayadev is a 2015 Ashoka Fellow. He wrote this for “Reimagining California,” a partnership of the California Endowment and Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

This Is What Could Happen to the Confederate Flag in Court

Before this becomes a lawsuit, the Confederate flag should be taken down

The tragedy in Charleston has revived the movement to take the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds.

On Monday June 22 — five days after the shooting in the AME Emanuel Church — South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called a press conference to announce:

It is time to remove the flag from our capitol grounds. … This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state.

This is a particularly sensitive issue because the flag is on state property.

The Confederate flag on public property leads many to ask: what message is the government sending?

The case against flying the Confederate flag

For those who want the flag to come down, the message is a reminder of white supremacy and the war fought to maintain slavery.

States have been taking Confederate flags and monuments down for years now, and refusing new requests to fly them.

Just this term the Supreme Court in Walker v Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans permitted Texas to reject a specialty license plate proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans with a Confederate battle flag on it.

Justice Breyer concluded that what appears on the license plate is a form of government speech and that Texas could decide for itself what speech to permit. When Texas decided that it did not want to include the Confederate battle flag, Breyer concluded there was no first amendment right of members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to require Texas to include the flag.

Integral to the conclusion that Texas can keep the Confederate battle flag off their license plates are the twin ideas that the government is speaking through the license plates and that Texas can control its own speech.

Such principles were used to justify the 2009 decision of Pleasant Grove City, Utah, to reject a monument from the Summum church for display on public property.

Writing for the majority in City of Pleasant Grove v Summum, Justice Alito said “the display of a permanent monument in a public park” is likely to be perceived as the government’s speech.

The city could reject a religious monument, because observers would think the government was endorsing that monument.

So far, so good: the state can (and many of us believe ought to) reject the display of the Confederate flag on government property.

Now look at the other side of this.

What is the state saying by flying the Confederate battle flag?

What happens when the state government decides to speak by putting a Confederate battle flag or a monument to the Confederacy on its property (or permitting others to do so)?

What message is the state sending?

While we’re working on that thought experiment, take, for instance, the Confederate monument in front of the Sussex County, Virginia Courthouse.

Note the inscription: “The principles for which they fought live eternally.”

That makes me suspicious of the quality of justice that African Americans can receive inside that courthouse.

Indeed, many people now see the rise of the use of the Confederate flag during the Civil Rights movement as a response to the increasing claims of African Americans to equality.

And as Justice Alito recognized in the Summum case, monuments on public property will lead observers to “routinely—and reasonably—interpret them as conveying some message on the property owner’s behalf.”

Violation of the 14th amendment?

That leads to the question, then, of whether government speech that tells African Americans they are inferior – and perhaps that the era of slavery was right – violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

This is a stretch of current equal protection doctrine, which is concerned with tangible questions like funding rather than speech.

However, if a state legislature passed a statute proclaiming African Americans are inferior I can imagine that such a bold and vicious statement might rise to the level of a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Now take a further step: does the Confederate battle flag or a monument to the Confederacy tell African American citizens that they are inferior? And if so, does that violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

While the answer to the latter question may not be clearly yes, I don’t think it is clearly no, either.

Ultimately, this is really more a question of whether a state – and its politicians – want to continue to fly a flag that is so closely associated with a war begun to maintain slavery.

Many supporters of the flag say that the meaning for them is about southern heritage, not race hatred. And in this I am inclined to believe their statements about their motive.

But at this point in American history the flag has become closely associated in the minds of many with white supremacy, slavery, and Jim Crow segregation. Whatever its meaning once was – or still is in the minds of some – in the minds of many it is time to realize that this is a symbol that is sending the wrong message to U.S. citizens.

Before this becomes a lawsuit, the Confederate flag should be taken down from in front of the South Carolina State House.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME legal

Here’s How Much Gay Marriage Could Add To The Economy

Friday's decision is worth billions

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today in favor of legalizing gay marriage throughout all 50 states of the U.S. as well as in the District of Columbia. And the decision may prove to be an economic boon for business in the country.

In an article last year, the Washington Post estimated that the decision could prove to be a $2.6 billion economic windfall in the next three years when passed across the U.S. That figure, which was calculated by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, sees the majority of its money coming from states including California, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Washington, the publication reported at the time.

For example, California calculated that over 50,000 gay couples in the state were expected to spend about $400 million, along with $31 million in local tax revenue.

The wedding industry in the U.S. is estimated to be worth over $51 billion.

Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell, co-founders of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, discussed the ruling in a statement, but said the fight for equality is far from over. “The Justices have affirmed what a bipartisan majority of Americans have come to understand: the freedom to marry is a constitutional right that is guaranteed to all Americans.”

“While recognizing this as a victory, NGLCC and its 42 affiliate chambers across the country understand that the LGBT movement must harness this momentum to secure greater equality, especially nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans,” Nelson added in a statement.

“It’s unacceptable that hardworking LGBT business owners still be discriminated against in corporate and government supply chains and that LGBT people can still be fired from their jobs in 28 states, evicted from their homes, or denied service in restaurants and shops simply for being who they are,” he said.

More more on marriage equality from Fortune, check out this article on corporate America putting its weight behind legalization.

TIME Supreme Court

Supreme Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Same-sex couples now have right to marry in all 50 states

(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.

Gay and lesbian couples already can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The court’s 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.

The outcome is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, just as he did in the court’s previous three major gay rights cases dating back to 1996. It came on the anniversary of two of those earlier decisions.

“No union is more profound than marriage,” Kennedy wrote, joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.

The ruling will not take effect immediately because the court gives the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration. But some state officials and county clerks might decide there is little risk in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The cases before the court involved laws from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Those states have not allowed same-sex couples to marry within their borders and they also have refused to recognize valid marriages from elsewhere.

Just two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law that denied a range of government benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The decision in United States v. Windsor did not address the validity of state marriage bans, but courts across the country, with few exceptions, said its logic compelled them to invalidate state laws that prohibited gay and lesbian couples from marrying.

The number of states allowing same-sex marriage has grown rapidly. As recently as October, just over one-third of the states permitted same-sex marriage.

There are an estimated 390,000 married same-sex couples in the United States, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute, which tracks the demographics of gay and lesbian Americans. Another 70,000 couples living in states that do not currently permit them to wed would get married in the next three years, the institute says. Roughly 1 million same-sex couples, married and unmarried, live together in the United States, the institute says.

The Obama administration backed the right of same-sex couples to marry. The Justice Department’s decision to stop defending the federal anti-marriage law in 2011 was an important moment for gay rights and President Barack Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in 2012.

Read next: Marriage Equality Is an Older Idea Than You Think

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TIME society

Obamacare Victory Shows Failure of Scalia’s Conservative Revolution

Justice Antonin Scalia at the "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor" evening program at the Library of Congress on Nov. 6, 2014.
Kevin Wolf—AP Justice Antonin Scalia at the "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor" evening program at the Library of Congress on Nov. 6, 2014.

This is clearly not the Scalia Court

By upholding a key provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in King v Burwell, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court demonstrated that while the conservative revolution led by Justice Antonin Scalia may have had a strong impact on the court (and on the nation), it has not succeeded in winning over Justice Anthony Kennedy or Chief Justice John Roberts. Thus, while Justice Scalia has won many battles, he has not won the war. And in today’s King v Burwell decision he lost a major battle.

Justice Scalia has fought tirelessly both to limit the court’s focus in interpreting statutes (in other words, to look only at the letter of the law and not at the broader purpose of the legislation) and to limit the power of the national government.

King v Burwell seemed tailor-made to vindicate both goals.

The basic question in King v Burwell was whether the phrase an “exchange established by the state” included health care exchanges established by the federal government in states that refused to create their own. The plaintiffs in King v Burwell argued that “established by the state” means that health insurance subsidies could not be offered in states that had chosen to use the federal health insurance market instead of their own. This is, indeed, a very strict interpretation.

For Justice Scalia, the answer was easy: “established by the state” could not possibly mean “established by the state or the federal government.” Had Justice Scalia’s textualism prevailed, the decision would have gutted the ACA. Six million people in the 34 states where the federal government runs the insurance marketplace could have lost subsidies, and premiums could have skyrocketed.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, Chief Justice Roberts wrote an otherwise unremarkable opinion that invoked traditional principles of statutory interpretation and examined the meaning of the phrase “established by the state” in context.

The chief justice looked beyond the plain language of the clause at issue. He insisted that a court should interpret the language of the law in light of the overall legislative purpose. As the chief justice wrote:

Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.

And a contrary interpretation would have defeated the central purpose of the statute. In this approach, the court acts as Congress’s partner, not its censor.

In his dissent, Justice Scalia was clearly furious that Chief Justice Roberts refused to endorse his revolutionary approach to statutory interpretation.

From Justice Scalia’s perspective, Chief Justice Roberts’ heresy was magnified by the fact that the chief justice cast the deciding vote to validate the Affordable Care Act in NFIB v Sebelius in 2012, in which the legality of the individual mandate was upheld.

When Justice Scalia gets mad, he does not hold back. He has often adopted fairly sharp language in his dissents, but even by that standard, his dissent in King v Burwell is extraordinary in tone:

Normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present court: the Affordable Care Act must be saved.

His vituperation reaches a crescendo in the conclusion where he snipes, “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”

One can debate the appropriate moniker for the ACA, and one can debate whether we should call this the Roberts Court or the Kennedy Court, but what is beyond debate is that this is not the Scalia Court.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Maryland

Maryland ‘Free Range’ Parents Cleared of All Charges in a Neglect Case

Danielle Meitiv, Rafi Meitiv, Dvora Meitiv
Jose Luis Magana — AP Danielle Meitiv walks home with her children Rafi, 10, left and Dvora, 6, right, after picking them up at the school bus stop in Silver Spring Md., on June 12, 2015.

This is one of two child neglect cases for the couple

(SILVER SPRING, Md.) — A Maryland couple who advocate “free range” parenting say they’ve been cleared in the second of two neglect cases that began when their children were spotted walking alone.

Danielle Meitiv told The Washington Post on Sunday that she and her husband learned of the decision in a Child Protective Services letter June 13. Officials haven’t commented but recently clarified their policy, noting that the state shouldn’t investigate unless kids are harmed or face substantial risk of harm.

The parents first came under scrutiny for allowing their 10- and 6-year-old children to walk home in a Washington suburb in December. In April, the children were held for hours after they were spotted walking from a park.

Meitiv says it’s a relief that the couple has been cleared in both cases.

TIME Law

Guns Were Much More Strictly Regulated in the 1920s and 1930s than They Are Today

Birger Gang Arms
Chicago History Museum / Getty Images A dog sits atop a vehicle belonging to the Birger Gang of southern Illinois, ca.1920s

Those who look to America’s past to extol a time when nothing stood between an American and a gun need to look again

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

The first significant federal law aimed at curtailing gun violence, the National Firearms Act of 1934, enacted a series of measures aimed mostly at stemming the spread of ever-more destructive weapons into the hands of criminals at a time of spiraling gangland violence. Chief among the weapons and accessories it regulated were sawed-off shotguns (defined as those having a barrel shorter than 18 inches), machine guns, and silencers. As if to punctuate the connection between the law and criminal violence, the NFA was signed into law on June 26. Bookending the signing was the killing of the notorious criminal duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow on May 23, and of uber-gangster John Dillinger on July 22.

Yet the campaign to staunch the flow of such weapons into society began in the states the previous decade, when at least 27 states enacted measures to restrict or outlaw the sale and possession of fully automatic weapons prior to 1934 – most especially submachine guns like the Tommy gun (dubbed “the gun that made the Twenties roar”). The first state to so act was West Virginia in 1925. The pivotal role of the states, acting at a time when the national government was seen as having limited power over the regulation of crime, comes as little surprise.

But there is another part of this story that, to my knowledge, has never been unearthed. Not only did states move to restrict fully automatic weapons – those that fire a continuous stream of bullets when the trigger is depressed – but also semi-automatic weapons that fire without reloading and with each pull of the trigger. At least seven, and as many as ten states enacted legislation that in various ways sought to restrict such weapons. Sometimes, fully automatic and semi-automatic weapons were treated in the same way.

For example, Rhode Island defined prohibited “machine guns” to include “any weapon which shoots automatically and any weapon which shoots more than twelve shots semi-automatically without reloading.” A 1927 Massachusetts laws defined prohibited weapons as, “Any gun or small arm caliber designed for rapid fire and operated by a mechanism, or any gun which operates automatically after the first shot has been fire. . . shall be deemed a machine gun.” Michigan’s 1927 law prohibited machine guns or any other firearm if they fired more than sixteen times without reloading. Minnesota’s 1933 law outlawed “Any firearm capable of automatically reloading after each shot is fired, whether firing singly by separate trigger pressure or firing continuously by continuous trigger pressure.” It went on to penalize the modification of weapons that were altered to accommodate such extra firing capacity.

Ohio barred both fully automatic and semi-automatic weapons in a 1933 law, incorporating under the banned category any gun that “shoots automatically, or any firearm which shoots more than eighteen shots semi-automatically without reloading.” The law specifically defined semi-automatic weapons as those which fired one shot with each pull of the trigger. South Dakota’s 1933 law barred machine guns by defining them as weapons “from which more than five shots or bullets may be rapidly or automatically, or semi-automatically discharged from a magazine.” In 1933 Virginia outlawed weapons “of any description . . . from which more than seven shots or bullets may be rapidly, or automatically, or semi-automatically discharged from a magazine, by a single function of the firing device, and also applies to and includes weapons, loaded or unloaded, from which more than sixteen shots or bullets may be rapidly, automatically, semi-automatically, or otherwise discharged without reloading.”

As is true in much of life, changes in technology often drive changes in behavior. While the typical hunter of the 1930s might have used a bolt action rifle, today’s hunter is much more likely to rely on some kind of semi-automatic long barrel gun. Even if the hotly disputed category of “assault weapons” were banned nationwide today (as was true to a limited degree from 1994-2004), the vast majority of long guns owned and used for recreational purposes would still be legal. But what is notable, even astonishing about the state laws just quoted is that they demonstrated little patience for semi-automatic firing married to the ability to fire multiple rounds without reloading.

One may have a legitimate debate about whether some modern weapons or accessories, like silencers or large capacity bullet magazines, should be restricted or regulated. But for those who look to America’s past to extol a time when nothing stood between an American and a gun, they need to look again. In many respects, guns were much more strictly regulated decades or even centuries ago than they are today.

Robert J. Spitzer is Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at SUNY Cortland. His most recent book is “Guns Across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights,” published by Oxford University Press.

TIME Law

7 Things to Know About the Magna Carta

What to know about the charter considered a cornerstone of modern democracy as it turns 800

For legal scholars, constitutional enthusiasts, and the United Kingdom, Monday is a special day: it’s the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.

A “Great Charter” signed between the King of England and the English nobility in the year 1215, the Magna Carta limited the power of the throne and was the first significant limit placed on governmental authority.

1. King John of England signed the Magna Carta in a field
Under pressure from a group of some forty English barons unhappy with the crown’s excessive taxation, King John agreed to affix his seal to the charter at Runnymede, near Windsor. The site is still a field today, part of National Trust land on the banks of the River Thames.

2. The document was originally written on calfskin
Like many writings in the pre-paper period, the 3,500-word agreement was originally written on vellum, or calfskin parchment. The document itself had a preamble and 63 clauses, and was written in Latin.

3. It established due process
In perhaps its most enduring legacy, the Magna Carta mandated that no man be imprisoned, stripped of his possessions or exiled “except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.” Basically, it said the king can’t arbitrarily imprison someone just because he’s in a bad mood. The government must act according to its own laws. That was a huge step toward establishing the modern legal and justice system. In 1297, the charter was counted as part of England’s statute law, and it’s now seen as the basis for the American Constitution and Bill of Rights.

4. But it didn’t last long
King John had the Magna Carta annulled by the Vatican within a few months of its signing, and the rebellious barons excommunicated by the church. When Henry III reissued the document ten years later, he whittled it down to 27 clauses from 69 — and today, just three of its original clauses remain part of English law

5. And it really had nothing to do with democracy
The Magna Carta was really about the barons of England protecting their own legal rights, and there was no concept at the time of protecting the rights of your average Englander. It was a case of the rich and powerful protecting themselves from the slightly more rich and powerful.

6. The U.K. will be drinking to its memory nonetheless
Among other things, the Magna Carta created the standard pint of ale. One of the rights the barons required was that ale was sold in bulk at a standard measurement. The idea of the provision, which also covered wine, corn and cloth, was to stop merchants from short-changing customers by selling goods smaller than they appeared. In the Middle Ages, the standard drink size was the London quarter, the equivalent of two pints.

7. While Americans will be celebrating it too
Five hundred lawyers from the American Bar Association are attending today’s Magna Carta signing celebration in England — just the latest proof of the high esteem in which the document is held in the U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts even cited the charter in a Supreme Court decision, saying that a legal ban on judges asking for campaign contributions is a “principle [that] dates back at least eight centuries to Magna Carta.” And the New Hampshire legislature once tried to require any new legislation dealing with individual rights to include a direct quote from the Magna Carta. We even have our own copy of it; a U.S. billionaire bought a later version of the Magna Carta in 2007 for some $21 million and put it on permanent loan in the National Archives, where it can be publicly seen on display.

 

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