The best researchers know that you can spend your time advancing your own good ideas if you leverage the work of others. So let’s say you have some good ideas about gun control or you want to have good ideas about gun control. Hein’s new database, Gun Regulation and Legislation in America, is an excellent tool to get you started. Hein has gathered scholarly articles, congressional hearings, CRS reports, Supreme Court briefs, legislative histories, and more relating to the topic of guns in America. There’s even a bibliography to help you find additional materials at libraries and elsewhere online.
The power of a collection like this is to surface information that you might not have otherwise seen and to search across documents for terms or concepts. For example, a researcher getting started with the topic of gun control might know that the assault weapons ban was contained in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This Hein collection, unsurprisingly, has a legislative history of that act. But when a researcher goes to find that legislative history, she is a tab away from a CRS report titled, “Assault Weapons Ban: Review of Federal Laws Controlling Possession of Certain Firearms.”
A researcher could also search across multiple documents at once to see, for example, every instance in which the AR-15 rifle is mentioned. Here is my results page for that search:
You can see how this search surfaces discussion of the AR-15 in CRS reports, hearings, and elsewhere. This search is faster than searching individual documents one by one and searches information that you might not have known even existed.
Although I think this collection is a powerful tool for research, I think that Hein could have made the collection more usable. For example, the “Supreme Court Briefs” tab within this collection is organized by title of the brief without any reference to what case it was filed in. The first entry is titled “Brief for Asista Immigration Assistance . . . in Support of Respondent.” If I click into it, I can see that it was filed in support of the respondent James Alvin Castleman in United States v. James Alvin Castleman. The collection contains several briefs filed in that case. It would be helpful to see them all listed together. Listing all of the documents alphabetically means that the researcher has to rely more on full-text search.
If you are looking to research guns in America, I highly recommend that you start with Hein’s collection.