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Panel examines gun control laws

| Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sandra Froman, former president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and Notre Dame political science associate professor Matthew Hall confronted the issue of gun control and Second Amendment interpretation in a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon.

Froman said that the increased political dialogue over the Second Amendment has been hugely beneficial.

“When I attended law school many years ago, we had a very thick red casebook,” Froman said. “And nowhere in the 1,400 or 1,500 pages was there any mention of the Second Amendment. Now, the authors of that casebook had the intellectual integrity to reprint the Bill of Rights in its integrity in the back, but there was no discussion of what it meant or any court cases about it. Things have changed.”

While he agreed increased dialogue was positive, Hall said he took the opposite approach to interpreting the Second Amendment.

“I’m going to try to convince you that when it comes to interpreting the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we should adopt a traditional jurisprudential approach, rooted in the text, the original understanding and the Supreme Court precedent,” Hall said. 

There are many misconceptions surrounding gun regulations, including the availability of fully automatic firearms and gun show “loopholes,” Froman said.

“It’s astonishing to me how intelligent, educated people can maintain a certain level of ignorance about the current state of firearms technology, policy, law and regulations, when the issues are so prominent in the media these days,” she said.

Those misconceptions also extend to the purpose of the NRA, Froman said.

“There are a lot of references to the NRA as a powerful gun lobby; what a lot of people who aren’t involved with the NRA and don’t know very much about the NRA don’t realize is that we are actually the foremost firearm safety and marksmanship training organization in the world,” she said. “That’s how we started, in 1871, that’s what we’re known for.”

Hall focused more on addressing how the Second Amendment should be interpreted and said our “love affair” with guns hindered our ability to do so faithfully.

“America loves guns; there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “We have almost 300 million guns in the U.S. — almost one for every man, woman and child in the United States — so when we sit down to try to read a constitutional text and apply that to gun control policy, love blinds us and sometimes, maybe we lose sight of those pesky principles like textualism and originalism.”

“The Second Amendment is unique in constitutional clauses in that it explicitly tells us what its purpose is — we sometimes forget how unusual it is,” Hall said. “The First Amendment doesn’t have a preamble, telling us how important free speech is for democratic self-government.

“We don’t get a little explanation of why we get most constitutional clauses and yet the framers of the Second Amendment seem to bend over backwards to write into the text the purpose of the Second Amendment: the preservation of a well-regulated militia.”

Froman said the presidential election highlighted the differences between Democratic and Republican conceptions of what gun control should look like.

“This recent presidential election presented a stark contrast between the Democrat candidate who openly called for registering not only firearms, but ammunition and argued for bans on commonly owned modern sporting rifles — which the media calls assault weapons — and called for a Supreme Court that would overthrow [District of Columbia v. Heller],” Froman said.

District of Columbia v. Heller ruled to protect an individual’s “God-given” right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes, including self-defense.

“The Republican candidate eschewed these overarching restrictions on firearms restrictions, was endorsed by the NRA and shocked the nation and embarrassed political commentators and pollsters everywhere by an unprecedented election victory,” Froman said. “The issues that have generated much controversy during the election, especially about firearms are continuing in the media today.”

In his closing remarks, Hall said that given the restrictions on other rights in the constitution, gun ownership should come with stipulations.

“Free speech isn’t absolute — why would gun ownership be absolute?” Hall said.

On the future of gun control, Froman said she was supportive of President Donald Trump and his plans.

“[Regarding] the election, there’s a new sheriff in town,” Froman said. “Whether you voted for Donald Trump or not, whether you like Donald Trump or not, he’s made it clear that he’s pro-Second Amendment.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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