Last week, our staff and board gathered to honor Julie Leftwich, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s legal director, as she transitions into new projects after more than two decades of service at our organization. Julie’s long history with the Law Center began with the 1993 mass shooting at 101 California Street in San Francisco—she was in the building the day a gunman, armed with military-style weapons, opened fire in the offices of the Pettit & Martin, killing eight and wounding another six.
That tragedy led to the founding of the Law Center (then, Legal Community Against Violence), and after working on a number of pro bono projects for the nascent organization, Julie was hired as our first staff attorney in 1996, where she began working to improve the quality of California’s gun safety laws, helping to transform the state’s policies into the model it is today.
During Julie’s tenure, California passed 64 smart gun laws, and as a result saw a dramatic reduction in its gun death rate by an astonishing 56 percent, which translates to thousands of lives every year. Today, the state is a safer place to live because of the laws and policies Julie so courageously fought for. Groundbreaking legislation like California’s gun violence restraining order, a ban on junk guns, and the 2016 ballot initiative Proposition 63, which Julie drafted, positions California as the national leader when it comes to groundbreaking, lifesaving gun safety laws.
Julie’s mission to save lives from gun violence didn’t stop with her innovative work in California; she played a major role in advancing smart gun laws at the national level. A leading Second Amendment expert, Julie’s work on dozens of influential amicus briefs over the years, including briefs in the landmark Supreme Court cases District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, contributed to our movement’s 94% success rate in defeating gun lobby challenges in the courts. She also worked extensively on developing and drafting state gun laws throughout the country, testifying before legislators and co-authoring model laws on issues like universal background checks and domestic violence. In her two decades with the Law Center, she wrote numerous op-eds and reports that educate the public on the dramatic, lifesaving impact smart gun laws have on communities nationwide. Additionally, Julie served as a longtime member of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Gun Violence.
“The contributions Julie has made to the Law Center’s success can be measured both by the tangible progress on gun safety legislation throughout the country and through her impact on the values, culture, and mentorship of our staff and attorneys for more than two decades,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “We will miss her intelligence, her insight, her incredibly high quality work, and her humor.”