On November 15, more than 200 students, professors, scholars, practitioners, and members of the community packed the Starr Reading Room for the Connecticut Law Review Symposium entitled Up in Arms: The Second Amendment in the Modern Republic.
The response was overwhelming, as the subject matter is particularly relevant in Connecticut, and more than half of the attendees were from outside the law school community.
The event was highlighted by discussions and debates on the legislative response following recent gun violence tragedies, the intersection of mental health and firearms, and the litigation of gun control rights. The symposium speakers and panelists consisted of renowned scholars and practitioners from across the country, as well as Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy and United States Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Richard M. Aborn, President of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City and Managing Partner of Constantine Cannon, delivered the symposium’s Keynote Address. The speech and following dialogue with the audience focused on the legislative gun control campaign’s objective to find the middle ground on gun regulation that members of all classes and political parties can support to achieve the greatest possible effect toward the ultimate goal of saving lives in the wake of tragedies such as the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut.
However, as Aborn and many of the other symposium speakers emphasized, there is a widespread misunderstanding of the campaign against gun violence that greatly hinders its advancement: many in opposition to the legislation falsely believe that the objective is a total ban on firearms. To the contrary, Aborn explained, “This is not about banning guns. We’ve got to have that conversation if we’re going to make any progress.” Aborn and other symposium speakers highlighted the 2008 Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which officially affirmed civilians’ Second Amendment right to own a handgun for self-defense in the home. The legislative gun control campaign, therefore, stands for the implementation of reasonable precautions on gun ownership in order to increase basic gun safety and prevent the access of firearms to the mentally ill and those with criminal backgrounds. Precautions being proposed as part of the legislative movement for increased gun safety include a ban of large magazines and assault weapons, limitations on the number of firearms one person may purchase, and mandatory gun registration and licensing, which would include background checks, general weapon safety training, and training on how to safely maintain guns in the home.
Many law-abiding gun owners support the more stringent gun control legislation being proposed, Aborn explained, since the effect of the legislation would not deprive such rightful gun owners of their firearms but, rather, only prevent access to firearms to those who should not possess them. Aborn emphasized that the gun control campaign effort would benefit greatly from increased involvement of such gun owners as a voice in support of control and regulation. Additionally, he underscored the importance of increased involvement of all populations in local government and grassroots campaigns for gun regulation, in order to create a stronger state and local base support to bolster the national movement.
After his speech, Aborn took more than 30 minutes of questions from an engaged and interested audience, many of whom were gun rights advocates who questioned his policies, including the need to ban assault weapons and suggesting that he actually was advocating for a handgun ban.
As Aborn noted, ultimately, the legislative gun control movement is about saving innocent lives. “We don’t want to be the America that stands in the face of Sandy Hook and says, ‘Sorry, there’s nothing we can do.’”