On March 26th, The Stein Scholars program presented a panel conversation about gun control, the Second Amendment and the aftermath of the Supreme Court's 2008 decision, DC v. Heller. This event was inspired in part by artist Pedro Reyes exhibition "Palas Por Pistolas" (shovels for guns) on temporary display in the Ildiko Butler Gallery in the Lowenstein building lobby.
Father Gregory Waldrop, executive director of Fordham's art collections, began the discussion by showing a poignant video presentation showcasing Pedro Reyes's transformative exhibit. Palas Por Pistolas began with broadcast media invitations for the inhabitants of Culiacan, Mexico to offer up their guns in defiance of a pervasive culture of fear brought upon the city by the local drug cartel. For each of the 1,527 guns received by the authorities, Palas Por Pistolas issued a shovel to plant a tree, 1,527 in total, thus turning each "agent of death into an agent of life."
The event continued with a panel discussion regarding the status of gun regulation efforts in America today as well as the legal aftermath of the Heller decision among the lower courts. Panelists included:
- Leah Gunn Barrett - Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun violence. Leah has played an important role in the passage of New York's SAFE Act as well as educating the public officials alike in her endeavor to promote responsible gun ownership.
- Saul Cornell, Ph.D - Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at Fordham University. Saul brought a historical perspective to the "originalist" legal construction arguments that lie at the heart of the debate over the Second Amendment's right to bear arms. Saul clarified the practical purpose of the Second Amendment at the time of its ratification and criticized conservative originalist arguments as overly steeped in modern ideology.
- Adam Skaggs - Senior counsel for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national bipartisan coalition of mayors and grassroots supporters working to pass gun legislation. Adam provided a critique of the Supreme Court's "intermediate scrutiny" standard used in its construction of Second Amendment rights in Heller. He also spoke about later court decisions that have distinguished Heller, such as the 9th Circuit's upholding of gun lock requirements and the Castleman case, in which a perpetrator of domestic violence was prohibited from gun ownership.