New York Law School is establishing what it believes to be the first law school clinic in the country devoted exclusively to the prevention of gun violence.
The clinic is a partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety—the nonprofit gun control advocacy organization founded in 2014 by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Two of the group’s deputy legal directors, Jonas Oransky and William Rosen, will lead the clinic as adjuncts.
“We consider ourselves a counterweight to the NRA, and we’re up and running in 50 states— pushing strong gun safety legislation and trying to fight the worst gun lobby items,” Oransky said. “We now have enough work and bandwidth that we can really let students take on a lot of it.”
Other law schools have legislative or policy clinics, but they aren’t centered squarely on gun issues.
Students in the NYLS-Everytown for Gun Safety Legislative Advocacy Clinic will focus their efforts on gun safety laws at the state level, both in pushing for changes that improve gun safety and fighting off efforts to erode such laws. Oransky and Rosen said they anticipate students conducting research and doing legislative outreach on issues such as background checks during gun purchases and preventing domestic abusers from owning firearms. Their specific projects will depend largely on the matters of the day once the clinic convenes in the fall, according to Rosen.
“What happens in the fall will unfold in real time,” he said. “We’ll have to see what’s happening at the time the students are here.”
The students will work on existing Everytown projects, as well as take on new ones, he added. The clinic will also incorporate simulations where students will gain practice drafting legislation.
The topic appears to be resonating with students. It has a wait list after filling the initial eight spots.
“In the wake of yet another deadly school shooting, words alone are inadequate,” said law Dean Anthony Crowell, in a reference to a school shooting last week in Santa Fe, Texas, that left 10 dead. “Now is the time for action. Lawyers have a vital role to play in ending the devastating gun violence epidemic.”
Crowell and Everytown president John Feinblatt both worked in Bloomberg’s mayoral administration, and that relationship led to the new clinic, according to Oransky.
“Every day, 96 Americans are killed with guns—and that has everything to do with our broken gun laws,” Feinblatt said. “Thanks to this clinic, a new generation of lawyers will receive the knowledge and experience they need to create and push through good laws—and fight dangerous ones.”
Some students in the clinic will have the opportunity to continue working with Everytown in the spring as externs, where their newfound experience on legislative issues will benefit the organization’s work.
“A clinic like this gives students an invaluable skill, and one that many people who start with us full time don’t have a lot of experience with,” Oransky said. “Once the spring begins and state legislatures swing fully into action, we’d love to have students who have been trained and continue to be interested in the issue really dig into the battles that rage.”