The debate featured a law professor against an attorney and adjunct professor who teaches Constitutional Law and Appellate.
The event was titled “Guns in America: A Year After Sandy Hook.” It was a debate between John J. Donohue and Donald E. J. Kilmer. Donhue is in favor of gun control, an economist, lawyer and member of the Stanford Law School faculty. He’s known for his sharp criticism of John Lott’s book called, “More Guns, Less Crime.”
Donald E. Kilmer is in favor of the Second Amendment, an attorney and adjunct professor who teaches Constitutional Law and Appellate at Lincoln Law School of San Jose. Kilmer’s firm has handled criminal gun cases and public interest constitutional litigation against government entities.
Early in the debate, moderator Charles Junkerman inquired from the two men to give their perspectives on “primary justifications of the Second Amendment,” according to The Stanford Review. This included the subject of firearms used in self-defense and also as a check against tyranny.
The gun control side struck first, with Donohue saying:
I support the right to self-defense, but that doesn’t mean that you have a right to high-capacity magazines.
His argument is the same one many gun-control advocates use on the issue of the Second Amendment. He believes the Constitution needs to be interpreted “through a historical lens.” He noted when the Bill of Rights was written firearms didn’t have the kind of firepower they have today. He said, “restriction has to be at the core of this right.”
Donohue appeared to scoff at the idea that firearms in the hands of citizens is a deterrent to tyranny. On the notion he said:
It’s fanciful to think that guns in the hands of citizens acts as a realistic check. They’re not really trained to do so. And it’s fanciful to think that the military would ever turn on U.S. citizens.
Kilmer and Donohue found common ground on the idea that citizens have a right to self-defense. Kilmer cited the Supreme Court’s ratification in the 2008 case of the District of Columbia v. Heller. The ruling by the SCOTUS guaranteed the protection of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.
Kilmer disagreed with Donohue on the issue of citizens being armed to deter tyranny. He responded to Donohue’s statement on this subject by saying:
That’s not really the point—it acts as a deterrent. He noted that the United States military has had a “tough time” historically against a number of untrained citizen groups, including the Vietcong, Afghan rebels, and insurgents in Iraq. When people are protecting their own home and way of life, there’s at the very least a speed bump effect.
Kilmer continued with: “Taking away citizens’ arms has always been the first step of the greatest human rights violations. The mistake of giving up your arms is a mistake you only get to make once.” He gave the example of the Nazis in pre-WWI Germany when they came to power. They prohibited ownership of firearms and condemned those who disagreed as ‘enemies of the state.’
The result of the disarming of the German people rendered them helpless when the Nazis began their persecution of political opponents and the Jews. During the debate, Donohue vigorously advocated tighter gun control standards while Kilmer was in favor of protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens.
When the moderator, Junkerman, asked about limiting the size of magazines, Donahue replied, “making the criminal reload more often is a beneficial thing. Without question, lives are saved by the fact that they have to reload.” He mentioned that during the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy 11 children were able to escape because Adam Lanza had to reload.
He also noted it was only during a moment of reloading that an elderly man was able to tackle Jared Laufner, the man who attempted to assassinate Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson three years ago.
Kilmer responded with: “Size of cartridge is a bit of a red herring. People do not become untrustworthy just because they have 11 rounds in their magazine rather than 10.” He disputed Donahue, that there was no reason to justify limiting law-abiding citizens who were willing to follow common safety rules.
Kilmer also said: “The problem with an arbitrary magazine size is that if you only have 10 rounds but there are 11 bad guys, then you’re the one who has to reload.”
Donahue next turned his attack on the NRA and criticized their mentality of encouraging “a get out your gun and be the hero of the day attitude.” When Kilmer and Donohue were asked to give their opinion about the idea of a good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun.
Donohue’s response was: “Having other guns around can only make things worse, because the shoot first attitude does not always work well. There are less lethal methods of self-defense, and it’s always a bad idea to ramp up the firepower.”
Kilmer disagreed by saying: “Good people with guns often do stop mass shootings.” He backed up this statement with the example of an armed sheriff stopping Karl Pierson’s violent rampage at the Arapaho High School in Colorado. Pierson committed suicide when confronted by the law enforcement official.
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