Despite being a gun rights advocate for more than 35 years, the Second Amendment Foundation remains in the shadows of larger Second Amendment advocacy groups, such as the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America. But the SAF’s influence on gun matters in courtrooms and debate halls was substantial in the 2000s.
Rise of a New Gun Rights Organization
Conservative writer and political activist Allan Gottleib founded the Second Amendment Foundation in 1974, at the age of 27. According to a mission statement on its website, the purpose of the SAF is “promoting a better understanding of our constitutional heritage to privately own and possess guns.”
A frequent guest on television and radio political segments, Gottleib has been a key figure on the gun rights scene since the 1970s. He is chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (which coined the popular phrase, “You can have my guns when you pry them from my cold, dead hands”), and founder of the KeepAndBearArms.com website for gun rights activists.
Based in Gottleib’s hometown of Bellevue, Wash., the SAF boasted 650,000 members in 2011.
The Legal Arm of the Gun Rights Lobby
The SAF emerged in the 2000s as a key player in legal battles involving the Second Amendment.
In 2005, the SAF joined the National Rifle Association in a lawsuit to halt gun seizures by New Orleans authorities in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a court battle that pitted the Second Amendment against states’ emergency powers, the U.S. District Court for Louisiana’s Eastern District declared the gun confiscations unconstitutional and ordered that they be halted.
Also in 2005, the SAF again joined forces with the NRA in an effort to strike down San Francisco’s “Proposition H,” which banned ownership of firearms by city residents. As a ballot referendum, Proposition H succeeded in 2005 with the votes of support by 57% of the city’s registered voters. However, San Francisco Superior Court struck down the gun ban before it could take effect. The ruling was upheld by higher courts of appeal.
The SAF joined the NRA and several legal aliens in suing the State of Washington in 2008, after the state stopped issuing alien firearms licenses, which are required for the state’s legal aliens to own firearms. Washington had halted the process of issuing the licenses, saying the FBI would not permit it to perform necessary background checks using federal databases. U.S. District Court in Washington’s Western District ordered that the state resume issuing firearms licenses for legal aliens.
Most notably, the SAF joined as a plaintiff in the McDonald v. Chicago case before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2010, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, striking down Chicago’s handgun ban and ruling for the first time that the constitutional right for individuals to keep and bear arms applies to the states.
Within days of the court’s decision in McDonald v. Chicago, the SAF joined Grass Roots North Carolina and several individual plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit that could ultimately see the U.S. Supreme Court rule on situations similar to New Orleans’ post-Katrina gun grab. The lawsuit seeks to prohibit North Carolina from seizing firearms or otherwise prohibiting citizens from exercising Second Amendment rights in states of emergency.
Additionally, the SAF has sponsored lawsuits challenging concealed carry prohibition in Los Angeles and Ohio, and has defended the gun industry in lawsuits against firearms manufacturers.
Education Arm of SAF
In addition to lobbying for the Second Amendment in courtrooms and legislative chambers, the SAF has made gun rights education a crucial role in its mission.
Maintaining a publishing office in Buffalo, N.Y., the SAF publishes The New Gun Week newspaper, a tri-monthly publication, as well as a monthly newsletter (The Gottleib-Tartaro Report), a quarterly magazine (Gun New Digest) and Women & Guns, the only women’s firearms magazine of its kind.
The SAF also provides information packets to students preparing firearms-related class papers and maintains a library resource program to disseminate pro-gun reference books to public libraries.
Finally, the SAF distributes research reports and position papers to news media outlets throughout the U.S.