Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Gun Control Laws

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Short, sweet, and to the point? Hardly. Gun control and the intended scope of the Second Amendment continues to be a hot button issue. Much of the debate involves whether this right extends to individuals or only to the State. 

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the meaning "of 'bear arms,' as used in the Second Amendment, means wear, bear, or carry upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person. District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)

Statutory laws vary widely by state. You are probably familiar with your own state's laws. If you are curious about other states' laws on this topic, Findlaw has collected the criminal laws from all 50 states, with a quick summary of the statute.


One of my favorite resources for comparing laws is the 50 state survey. If your library happens to have a subscription to HeinOnline, you may have access to the National Survey of State Laws.  The format is tailored for easy comparison, with no extra clicking. If you are a member of our law school, you can access it remotely with your patron credentials. The public and our alums may view this source while visiting the Law Library.

If you are curious about laws in other countries, Library of Congress published a 2013 report that examines the legal approach to gun control—including ownership and possession, licensing and registration, background checks, training, storage, weapons bans, and related issues—in  Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the European Union.

In the United States, for the most part, this issue is sharply divided along party lines. Interested in finding out how the presidential candidates feel about gun control, among other issues? You can compare Presidential candidates' positions at

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Here Comes NexGen FDSys

Do you use federal government documents?  Is your computer connected to the internet? If you answered yes to these questions you may want to keep reading.

The Government Publishing Office’s (GPO) secure source for authentic digital content, the Federal Digital System (FDSys), is getting an upgrade.  NexGen FDSys’s beta test version is slated to go public this month.  The beta test version will run in parallel with the current version in order to get and incorporate additional user feedback prior to replacing the current version of FDSys in its entirety.

The new design is based on open source software which will allow GPO to change the system in response to current user needs.  The beta redesign is based on feedback from users about the current version and incorporates the following changes:

  • Simplified top level page which now focuses on two main tasks searching & browsing
  • Front page also includes quick links to recent publications, featured publications, and a new A to Z resource list
  • New ability to open several branches of a list at once rather than the opening a second branch causing the first open branch to collapse
  • New website also designed to be more mobile friendly

GPO has released a video which outlines the features of the beta release of NexGen FDSys.  You can see the video by following this link.

Keep an eye out for new advances from GPO. They are dedicated to making access to government information easier.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Happy New Year and Welcome to Spot-On Legal Research 2016

This post is going to ask you a few personal questions – did you make some New Year resolutions for 2016? Did any of them involve legal research? If not, let me suggest the following, guaranteed to help you get your research house in order:

Resolution: Attend the advanced certification sessions offered by Steven Albro for Lexis Advance coming up on Monday, January 25th and Wednesday, January 27th.  If you are a 1L at Western New England University School of Law, your Lawyering Skills professor may be offering extra credit for taking the advanced certifications. More on that later.

Resolution: Although you can take the WestlawNext certification series any time because it is offered exclusively online, Western New England University School of Law is promoting the WestlawNext certification process during the week of February 1st. This too may be eligible for extra credit from your Lawyering Skills professor. The certification process is broken down into two modules – “research more efficiently” and “research more productively.” To earn the certificate, take 6 of the short sessions offered under each module (all fall between 4 and 10 minutes) and then take the test. Voila! Certification. Make this the year you master KeyCite.

Resolution: Is there an aspect of legal research that you find particularly difficult? Are you terrified of being asked to do legislative history in your internship job? Make an appointment with your Law Librarian and ask him or her to go over that concept with you until you get it.  

Resolution: If that one-on-one with your Librarian seems too intense, how about asking him or her for a recommendation of a research text that you can consult? Our Library just purchased a book called Strategic Legal Research: Finding the Information You Need Efficiently and Cost-Effectively, authored by Tobin A. Sparling, a legal research and writing professor at South Texas College of Law. This book was recommended in a recent review in Law Library Journal as a great place to send a student who wants to know how to start and finish the research process.

Resolution: Here’s something new for 2016 – what about using one of the Law Library’s new e-books if you need a treatise on a particular topic of research? For example, want some background on elder law in Massachusetts? Go to this link, use your Library barcode and PIN and then do a keyword search – in this case “elder law” & Massachusetts, and presto, you have full access to Massachusetts Elder Law, 2d edition, published by LexisNexis. Soon you will be able to search for e-books directly in our catalogue but until then, use the above link.

You can take this quiz designed by psychologist Richard Wiseman to see if you will be one of the 22% of Americans who will stick to their New Year resolutions, or, you can just call us at 413-782-1458 and make that appointment for your legal research tutorial. In all events, Happy New Year!