Research assistantship helped Noah Levine ’23 build skills, deepen his understanding of Second Amendment and the law
The 2L says his opinions on gun laws and the polarizing debate have grown more nuanced.
When Noah Levine ’23 started working with the Center for Firearms Law last year, his opinions on the Second Amendment were largely shaped by the headlines, and he sorted people into stark categories based on their stance on gun laws. Now, after working as a research assistant and collaborating on scholarship with center faculty, he says that his views have become more complex, and he has learned to take a more nuanced and objective approach to the law.
In addition to working with the center, the Newton, Mass., native has been a teaching assistant for Legal Analysis, Research and Writing, as well as an editor for the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy. This summer, he will be working at Ropes & Gray in Boston.
In our interview, he told us about his experiences and how they helped him gain legal skills and change his perspectives:
What kind of work have you been doing with the Center for Firearms Law?
I first got involved with the center as a full-time research assistant last summer. My tasks there varied greatly. Among many other projects, I created an outline for a chapter of the professors’ forthcoming casebook on the Second Amendment, I conducted research on the increasing prevalence of “public carrying,” and I wrote a post for the center’s blog, Second Thoughts, about the implications of [the U.S. Supreme Court’s] recent Cedar Point Nursery decision on Fifth Amendment takings claims in gun cases.
After the research assistantship ended, Professor Joseph Blocher offered me the wonderful opportunity to co-author a paper that’s forthcoming this spring in NYU’s Annual Survey of American Law. I had encountered much of his illustrious scholarship during my research projects that summer, so I was thrilled (and slightly awed!) to get to help in any way I could. Our piece details some recent gun rights claims that derived from constitutional provisions besides the Second Amendment.
This semester, I’m completing an independent study with [the center’s executive director], Jake Charles, on guns and personal liberty. I’m applying my area of study in college – political theory – to the realm of firearms and writing a research paper on the effect of public carrying of guns on founding-era notions of liberty.
How has your work deepened your understanding of or changed your views on Second Amendment law?
I became exposed to the field of firearms law the way too many other students my age did: through public discourse following mass shootings. I distinctly remember watching President Obama’s tearful address after the Sandy Hook massacre and feeling puzzled about the role of firearms in the United States.
Through my work with the center, my understanding of topics like assault weapons bans, concealed carrying, and carrying in sensitive places has become much more nuanced. Where I may previously have categorized people as “pro-Second Amendment” or “anti-Second Amendment,” I now have a better understanding of the range of rights alleged on both sides of the aisle, and how they come into conflict with certain restrictions.
How has your work with the center enhanced your Law School experience?
Before my summer as an RA at the center, I’d taken Civil Procedure with Professor Miller and Constitutional Law with Professor Blocher. They were caring, dedicated (and challenging!) teachers who made significant efforts to connect with students – even over Zoom. It wasn’t until I’d worked at the center that I’d realized how prominent they – along with Professor Charles – are in their field; their work gets cited repeatedly in [Supreme Court] briefing, and their scholarship is inventive and thought-provoking. I feel lucky to have professors who are distinguished in such an important field yet still care so much about their students.
How have your experiences prepared you for your career after law school?
Guns are a tremendously sensitive topic – and rightfully so. Like many others in this country, I have strong political viewpoints about the prudence of gun laws. However, I’ve had to separate my political views on these laws from an unrelated analysis of their legal validity. As an attorney, you don’t get to choose what clients walk into your office, so I’m sure there will be instances where my clients’ viewpoints won’t entirely comport with mine. My involvement with the center has prepared me to separate my political beliefs and instead focus on the law.