Minnesota Law School to Launch Gun Violence Prevention Clinic
Minnesota Law School will launch a Gun Violence Prevention Clinic in January 2023. The clinic is believed to be the first in-house law school clinic in the nation with a focus on promoting gun violence prevention through strategic litigation.
The clinic will utilize student pro bono legal work to support and litigate cases that help reduce injuries, deaths, and trauma resulting from gun violence. A three-year pilot project, the clinic seeks to spur law school and law student engagement in firearms law and the Second Amendment; establish a home for gun violence prevention litigation in the Great Lakes area; and grow the pool of litigation expertise and legal resources available for Second Amendment and gun violence prevention matters.
“Firearms law is currently one of the most dynamic and rapidly changing areas in the law,” says Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor Megan Walsh, who will serve as director of the clinic. “Yet there are not enough litigators with expertise in the field, and law schools and legal scholars are under engaged in Second Amendment issues. The Gun Violence Prevention Clinic will contribute to both of these interrelated gaps.”
“With gun-related deaths at record highs, preventing gun violence is a critically important issue in Minnesota and the nation,” said Garry W. Jenkins, dean and William S. Pattee Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School. “This novel and exciting new clinic will allow students to have a real-world impact on addressing the epidemic of gun violence, while honing their practical skills and developing a deep reservoir of knowledge on Second Amendment jurisprudence.”
The Gun Violence Prevention Clinic will partner with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office on Second Amendment cases and on affirmative litigation brought by the Attorney General to reduce gun violence in Minnesota. This partnership will give students the opportunity to work with the Attorney General’s office to create safer communities in Minnesota through litigation, with the students serving as Special Assistant Attorney Generals under the supervision of the clinic.
"We all have a role to play in urgently putting an end to the epidemic of gun violence in America,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison ‘90. “My office has been innovating by using civil tools to hold negligent gun sellers accountable, and this partnership is another innovation.
“I thank Dean Garry Jenkins and Professor Megan Walsh for making it possible for the University of Minnesota Law School and the Attorney General’s Office to jointly educate and train the next generation of lawyers to effectively litigate Second Amendment cases. Above all, I want to thank advocates, family members, and victims of gun violence who have come forward in Minnesota and across the country to tell their stories and say ‘enough.’ We can, must, and will do more to end gun violence and keep all of our communities safe. This partnership is another step toward that goal."
Walsh, who has extensive experience in the gun violence prevention movement as an attorney and community organizer in Minnesota, will work with and supervise law students in providing pro bono legal services through the clinic. Walsh formerly served as a consulting attorney with Everytown Law, the largest gun violence prevention litigation team in the country.
“Litigation in this area is needed to challenge extreme gun laws, to combat the disproportionate effect of gun violence on BIPOC communities, and to provide a counterweight to the gun lobby in the courts,” Walsh says. “The Clinic's priority will be to develop affirmative cases in consultation with Minnesota community members who live in communities that have experienced disproportionate rates of gun violence.”
Approximately 110 people per day die in the United States as a result of gun violence, with the loss disproportionately affecting racial minorities. Black Americans experience 10 times the gun homicides, 18 times the shooting injuries, and nearly three times the fatal police shootings of white Americans. Gun violence in domestic relationships disproportionally affects Black, American Indian, and Hispanic women. Homicide and shooting rates in Minnesota reached a 20-year high in 2021.
“The Gun Violence Prevention Clinic will be an excellent addition to our extensive clinical educational offerings,” says Professor Steve Meili, director of Law Clinics at the University of Minnesota Law School. “It provides students with a way to develop their advocacy skills while also helping to address one of the most important and vexing issues of the day. It is exactly the kind of impactful work that we aspire to have students experience during their time at the law school.”
The clinic would not be possible without the generous support of The Joyce Foundation, McKnight Foundation, and other funders.
"The Joyce Foundation has invested in gun violence prevention for decades and believes it is essential for philanthropy to support Second Amendment scholarship and legal strategy," said Tim Daly, Joyce's Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform program director. "We're proud to support this new clinic and its innovative approach to keeping communities safer from gun violence, as well as training future lawyers who will likely play a critical role in litigating future Second Amendment cases."