April 18, 2013
On Monday afternoon, an attentive audience in the Red Pit listened as NYU Law Professor Jim Jacobs gave an engaging lecture titled “Gun Control: Can It Work?” Funded by the Security Program of the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center, the lecture was well attended by professors, students and community members.
After being introduced by Professor Anecherico, Jacobs, the Warren E. Burger professor of law and director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice at NYU School of Law, launched into a discussion of the constitutionality of gun control measures. Electing to field questions as though in a press conference, Jacobs quickly transitioned from topic to topic and also posed questions of his own to the audience.
“How do you know you want to ban it if you don’t know what it is?” Jacobs asked, after taking a poll of how many people knew what an assault rifle is. During the lecture, Jacobs peppered his remarks with statistics and facts about gun control laws in the United States.
The talk touched upon the following topics and more: clauses that grandfather in weapons currently held by citizens, the New York Safe Act, background checks, policy tensions between HIPAA laws and background checks, the variety in gun culture across the U.S. and what it means to keep guns out of the hands of “irresponsible people.”
Jacobs encouraged the audience to distinguish the legality of gun control from questions pertaining to political science. He expressed the belief that the constitutional right to bear arms should be kept “right front and center,” and noted “there aren’t that many constitutional rights in the Bill of Rights.” Compared to the last 50 years, concluded Jacobs, “we are at a low level with gun violence without reducing the number of firearms in private hands.”
Jacobs’s lecture left Hamilton Democrats President Will Rusche ’13 disappointed, and Rusche found Jacobs’ emphasis on the grandfather clauses and the sheer number of guns in the country to be “short-sighted.”
“We’ve really only had a few Supreme Court cases on gun control,” said Rusche. “I just don’t think it’s been fully addressed yet,” noting that a lack of a perfect solution is no excuse for inaction. He also remarked that the Second Amendment should be scrutinized just as the First Amendment has, alluding to laws regarding libel and defamation.
On the other hand, Hamilton Republicans member Pat Bedard ’14 echoed Jacobs’s confidence in the Second Amendment.
“The very purpose of a constitution is to enshrine values that future generations may forget the significance of,” he said. “The fact that the right to keep and bear arms was thought to be so important by this country’s founders and citizens that it was placed in our bill of rights has a significance that should not be overlooked.”
Bedard noted that the large audience at the lecture and at the gun control debate between the College Democrats and Republicans is “a testament to the importance of this issue.” However, he expressed the belief that the “larger issue of mental health services” is not receiving adequate attention.
While Jacobs focused specifically on the legality of gun control issues, the issue of gun control had more political implications later in the week. On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 54-46 to reject a motion to move forward on the most recent proposed gun saftey measures.
The votes against the proposal came mostly from conservative Republican and pro-gun Democrats. Four Republicans voted for the legislation, while five Democrats voted against it. This marks a significant setback for gun control measures.