Don Kates

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Don Bernard Kates Jr., (January 26, 1941 – November 1, 2016) was an American lawyer and research fellow with The Independent Institute in Oakland, California who focused on promoting gun rights. His scholarship and litigation played important parts in the modern renaissance of the Second Amendment. Along with Stephen Halbrook, Kates deserved the primary credit for making the Second Amendment scholarship an important topic of modern scholarly interest.[1] His books include Armed: New Perspectives On Gun Control, Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out, Firearms and Violence: Issues of Public Policy, and The Great American Gun Debate: Essays on Firearms and Violence (with Gary Kleck). As a civil liberties lawyer he was retained by the National Rifle Association to represent gun owners attacking the constitutionality of certain firearms laws.[2] The Washington Post described Kates as the "Johnnie Cochran" of the pro-gun lobby, noting his polemical attacks on public-health research on firearms injuries and writing that Kates "has muddied the waters of truth so thoroughly that wading into them is a daunting task."[2] Kates also wrote extensively on criminological issues related to firearms. Among his most influential policy articles is “Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence or Pandemic of Propaganda?” which appeared in a symposium issue of the Tennessee Law Review in 1994.[1] His 1983 article in the Michigan Law Review was the first time that a top-10 law journal published a detailed historical analysis of the original meaning of the Second Amendment.[3]

Kates grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended Reed College and Yale Law School. During the Civil rights movement, he worked in the South for civil rights lawyers including William Kunstler.[citation needed] Thereafter, he specialized in civil rights and police misconduct litigation for the federal War on Poverty program.[citation needed] After three years of teaching constitutional law, criminal law, and criminal procedure at Saint Louis University School of Law, he returned to San Francisco where he practiced law and wrote on criminology.

He was editor of Firearms and Violence: Issues of Public Policy (San Francisco: 1984, Pacific Research Institute) and the Winter 1986 issue of Law & Contemporary Problems. He was author of the entry on the Second Amendment in M. Levy & K. Karst, The Encyclopedia of the American Constitution; "Firearms and Violence: Old Premises, Current Evidence," in T. Gurr (ed.), Violence in America (1989); and "Precautionary Handgun Ownership: Reasonable Choice or Dangerous Delusion," B. Danto (ed.), Gun Control and Criminal Homicide, forthcoming (1990). Kates died on November 1, 2016.[4]


  • Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control (w/ Gary Kleck, gun control, Prometheus Books, 2001) ISBN 1-57392-883-6
  • Firearms and Violence: Issues of Public Policy Publisher: Ballinger Publishing Company (May 1984) ISBN 0-88410-922-4, ISBN 978-0-88410-922-8
  • The Great American Gun Debate: Essays on Firearms & Violence (w/ Gary Kleck and John K. Lattimer, gun control, Pacific Research Institute, 1997) ISBN 0-936488-39-5
  • Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out Publisher: North River Press Publishing Corporation (February 1979) ISBN 0-88427-034-3, ISBN 978-0-88427-034-8


  1. ^ a b Carter, Greg (2012). Guns In American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law, Second Edition. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC. pp. 467–469. ISBN 978-0-313-38670-1.
  2. ^ a b Thompson, Bob (March 29, 1998). "Trigger Points". Washington Post Magazine.
  3. ^ Michel, C.D. (April 30, 2014). "Don Kates – Second Amendment Centerpost". Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  4. ^