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Santa Barbara Gun Control Forum Targets Constitution, Case Law

Panelists draw on the shootings in Tucson in discussing weapons regulations

About 50 people gathered Thursday night in the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Central Library to hear three panelists talk about the perennially controversial issue of gun control. The event, organized by the Coalition Against Gun Violence, was an interesting philosophical debate about the Second Amendment and what it means to the United States today.

Organized long before the shootings in Tucson, Ariz. on Jan. 8 that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords critically injured, the event centered on the two recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that would restrain the government’s ability to limit gun rights.

The topic took on a personal element after the shooting of Giffords in a Tucson parking lot, which prompted many to scrutinize guns laws in the nation and who should be granted access to weapons.

Thursday’s event was moderated by former Santa Barbara mayor and SBCC board trustee Marty Blum. She introduced the speakers by talking about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign among U.S. mayors to tighten handgun regulations. Since Tucson, 1,364 Americans been murdered, according to the group’s Web site.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Brian Hill, who also teaches constitutional law at the Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law, began the discussion, leading a scholarly discourse about interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

Former law professor Richard Solomon leads a discussion on the case law involving gun rights.
Former law professor Richard Solomon leads a discussion on the case law involving gun rights. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

“It’s clear that the language of guns and arms is in the Constitution,” he said, adding that the conversation then turns to how broad one’s interpretation becomes. Hill encouraged readers of the Constitution who take a broad view, and accept the right to have an abortion or the right of homosexual couples to marry, to also take a broad view of the rest of the Constitution.

But he noted that most people don’t read the Constitution that way, and conservatives and liberals are prone to read the document in the way that backs up their own philosophies.

Former law professor Richard Solomon followed, discussing some of the case law involved in discussions on gun rights, such as District of Columbia v. Heller. Solomon also said judges should respect the framers of the Constitution and not interpret it for their own political views.

“We ought to pay attention to what they meant, and we ought to respect it,” he said. Of the current Supreme Court lawsuits, he said, “the court left us rudderless to decide hundreds of lawsuits.”

The last panelist, UCSB sociology professor Beth Schneider, noted that there had been no serious discussion of gun control in the mainstream media since Tucson.

She said that more than 80 percent of Americans believe that guns should be subject to background checks, and that the National Rifle Association wants guns with no restrictions “flies in the face of public opinion.” She touched on the “nastiness” in the political environment surrounding the shooting.

“It matters that this was in Arizona at this time,” she said, adding that immigration activists have characterized the state’s climate as “hateful” and “toxic.”

Audience members were encouraged Thursday to sign petitions regulating guns, including a federal petition spearheaded by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, to restrict the type of ammunition clips that were used against Giffords.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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