Second Amendment is the Topic for Constitution Day

At Constitution Day are, from left, Professor Gary Rose with panelists Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Inc., and Rob Sampson, Connecticut state representative (R-80). Photo by Elizabeth Mastrocola ’16.

News Story: September 20, 2013

The fourth and final discussion in Sacred Heart University’s four-part “Reflecting on Sandy Hook” colloquia series took place on Tuesday, September 17. The topic was “Does Connecticut’s New Gun Law Violate the Second Amendment?” Previous discussions covered tragedy and mental health, the role the media plays in the aftermath of a tragedy and the whereabouts of God when tragedy strikes. Tuesday’s discussion also served to commemorate Constitution Day.

Moderated by Gary Rose, professor and chair of Government and Politics at SHU, the panelists were Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Inc., and Rob Sampson, Connecticut state representative (R-80). In his opening remarks, Rose noted that Connecticut’s law has been described as one of the most restrictive laws in the United States, and it is currently being challenged as a violation of the second amendment.

Sampson opened by stating that the law was in direct response to the events at Sandy Hook. “There is no one who is not horrified by those events and sympathetic to the families, but the law that was passed is a huge omnibus bill. It did include some good changes, and if it had contained just those items, I would have supported it,” he said.

Some of the things he opposes include a ban on the design of semi-automatics and restrictions on the amount of ammunition a magazine can hold. “What we need is criminal control, not gun control. Restore the death penalty; prosecute criminals and keep them in prison. This law is not going to eliminate a madman.” He pointed out that Chicago and Washington, D.C., have some of the most restrictive gun laws, but continue to be some of the areas in the country with the most gun violence.

Pinciaro’s opening remarks revolved around whether the right to bear arms is a collective right or an individual right. While he did not dispute that it is an individual right, he did assert that the founding fathers were writing about a collective right that referred to the need for an armed militia. He noted that even when the Supreme Court has come down on the side of individual rights, it has opened the door for restrictions. “Like most rights, the right to bear arms is not an unlimited right,” he said.

He pointed out that most mass shootings involve semi-automatic weapons and defended the restriction on large-capacity magazines by noting that “six kids and a teacher escaped at Sandy Hook when the killer had to change his magazine. We want to start with the most powerful weapons that were intended for the military and the police,” he said.

The two panelists were at odds again when asked what James Madison would think of an assault rifle. “He would be appalled,” Pinciaro said. “He absolutely would have said that an AK47 is a protected firearm,” Sampson shot back.

During the Q&A portion of the event, the discussion continued to be lively as audience members on both sides of the issue pounded the panelists with questions and comments. “This is exactly the kind of event that you want to see on a college campus—one where opinions are expressed and debated, ideas are challenged and thoughtful arguments are raised,” Rose said.

The event was sponsored by the Department of Government & Politics in conjunction with the Human Journey Colloquia Series.