Gun Control and Rights Experts Debate at Symposium
October 30, 2013 - Advocates on both sides of the debate over gun control gathered at Cooley Law School in Lansing this week to determine whether there is some "common ground" in the controversy. The symposium, entitled World Views Collide: A Panel of Experts Debate on Guns in America, was hosted by the Law Review at Cooley and included experts from around the United States.
Participating in the event were Cooley graduate and Washington, D.C., attorney M. Carol Bambery; Cooley adjunct professor Steve Dulan, Michigan State Rep. Jim Townsend, psychologist Linda K. Brundage, attorney David Hardy, and retired New York Times editor and author Craig R. Whitney. Cooley Professor William Wagner moderated the event.
Carol Bambery, a 1985 graduate of Cooley, told the audience, "More guns plus less gun control equals less crime." She has served as in-house counsel to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Washington, D.C., for nine years and was formerly Chief of Legal Services and Legislative Director for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. In years past, Bambery developed and taught courses on the Second Amendment, natural resources law, and oil and gas law at Cooley.
Craig R. Whitney worked 44 years with the New York Times before retiring in 2009 as an assistant managing editor. In 2012, he authored the book, Living with Guns: A Liberal's Case for the Second Amendment. He noted that the Second Amendment has never prohibited regulation; that the amendment and regulation have always co-existed. At the same time, however, he said that – far from making schools "no-gun zones," he supported the idea of armed guards in schools. "Keep them (would-be shooters) guessing," he stated.
Whitney added that he didn't think the issue of mental health care – which has been a major topic of national conversation in the country in the wake of mass shootings – was taken seriously enough. The issue of keeping guns out of the hands of the seriously mentally ill, while preserving the rights of potentially responsible gun owners, is a topic many speakers touched upon.
David Hardy, whose law practice focuses on firearm-related legal issues, was assistant general counsel for the National Rifle Association. He agreed with Whitney on the problems of mental health issues and gun ownership. While there are restrictions on adjudicated, confined mental health patients owning guns, the problem, Hardy said, is that if the patients are not committed, the federal bar on gun ownership does not apply.
Hardy also said that, the problem that gun rights advocates have in finding a middle ground with their opponents, is that the pro-restriction side always wants more.
"If you're on the pro-gun side," Hardy said, "(and hear) ‘Whatever we get is just the first slice' — under these circumstances, you'd be insane to strike a deal."
Steve Dulan, a 1994 graduate of Cooley, who teaches Gun Control Seminar at the law school, was an outspoken advocate of gun rights. He termed gun-free zones as "mass murder empowerment zones" and, as an example, stated that the shooter in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater murders bypassed earlier theaters that he may have considered in favor of the one he chose, because that final one was touted as being a gun-free facility.
Linda Brundage is the founder and chapter lead of the mid-Michigan chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, formed in December 2012. The organization, which now has chapters in every state in the United States, advocates for required background checks on all gun purchases, as well as bans on assault weapons and online sales.
"Anything else responsible for this many deaths would be immediately investigated and regulated," she said. The group is concerned about the number of suicides committed with guns, as well as threats against others. "Gun violence is a public health hazard," she said.
Dulan, a former U.S. Army Infantry sergeant and a civilian military rifle instructor, commented, "We all want the world to be a safer place; we just disagree on how to get there. It's the oldest public policy debate in history."
State Rep. Jim Townsend commended the law review for holding the symposium, but said, "The place to really have this discussion is in a hearing room over at the State House of Representatives," he said, adding that "85 percent of Michiganders would like to see universal background checks."
Townsend said it's a question of access, stating that in states with background checks, the incidence of gun violence is lower. "It's common sense," he said.
Dulan said that most gun crimes are intertwined with drug gangs and said there is no proof that gun control makes people safer. "Gun control laws only impact law-abiding citizens," he said. "Regulations are only followed by people who were going to do the right thing anyway."
What it boils down to, Dulan said, is "No gun control law can make us safe. I can make us less safe. Do you want the gun in my hand or the criminal's hand?
Wagner thanked people for coming to the symposium and indicated the search for answers on gun control and rights will continue.
About Cooley Law School: Celebrating 40 years of excellence, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School is a private, nonprofit, independent law school accredited by the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission. Cooley has provided its more than 17,000 graduates with the practical skills necessary for a seamless transition from academia to the real world. Cooley offers its Juris Doctor program, Joint Degree programs, and Master of Laws programs three times a year with enrollment in January, May and September. Cooley Law School has campuses across Michigan in Lansing, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, and in Tampa Bay, Fla.