Happiness is a Warm Gun with Professor Peter Malaguti

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Monday, Dec 5, 2016, 7:30 pm

Edgewood Auditorium
575 Osgood Street
North Andover, MA

The legal debate over the 2nd Amendment, Gun Rights and Gun Control with Constitutional Law Professor Peter M. Malaguti.

Perhaps the pithiest of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the 2nd Amendment states: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” As is true with much of our beloved Constitution, the meaning of this 27-word, four-clause, three-comma sentence is more cryptic than loud and clear. The language of the Amendment begins with an apparent demand that militias be well regulated and effectively armed but suddenly shifts its focus to the right of the “people” to keep and bear arms. The ambiguity is obvious. Does the 2nd Amendment create a right to bear arms only to ensure well-armed militias or do these 27 words afford additional individual gun rights, such as the right of self-defense or the right to keep guns as a check on a government that might become undemocratic?

After more than 200 years of mostly ducking the issue, in 2008 and 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court decided two big cases that essentially deleted the words about militias but provided a fundamental, individual right to bear arms for self-defense. Still, these cases did not resolve all that much in the endless debate about gun rights and gun control. Proponents of gun control continue to point to the more than 300 million guns in America and nightly news reports of gun violence, while some gun rights advocates continue to decry that all gun control violates their individual rights.

Constitutional Law Professor Peter M. Malaguti will lead a discussion on the legal issues involved in the examination of the 2nd Amendment by examining the following questions:

  1. Why did the framers of the Constitution find it necessary to include the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights?
  2. What did they mean to say in their scant 27 words?
  3. How did the courts handle gun rights and gun control between 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified, and in 2008 when the court decided Heller v. District of Columbia?
  4. Were the 2008 and the 2010 cases correctly decided?


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