Violence Statistics, Constitutional Law and Activism Headline Wesleyan Forum on Gun Control

Three professors who specialize in faculties related to the study of gun violence spoke before a group of students at the Middletown university on Wednesday.


The United States is not any more of a violent country than other first-world, wealthy nations in its class, a Harvard oncologist who has studied gun violence in recent decades, told a gathering of Wesleyan University students and Middletown residents during a forum Wednesday evening.

But, when looking at the raw data — the number of deaths by hand guns in suicides and homicides against women and children — “We’re more lethally violent,” Dr. Matthew Miller told the crowd.

“When there are more guns, there are more deaths,” the professor said.

Miller was one of three panelists who spoke during a forum at the university on gun violence, along with Fordham University Constitutional law professor Saul Cornell, and Duke University political science professor Kristin A. Goss.

The event was hosted by Wesleyan Assistant Professor of African-American Studies Leah Wright, and was moderated by John Dankosky, host of the WNPR show, “Where We Live.”

Miller’s presentation was the more numbers-driven of panel members. Citing data from 2010, he showed how roughly two-thirds (just under 20,000) of all firearm-related deaths were suicides, with just over 11,000 being homicides and a very small amount (606) being accidents.

By comparison, there are more homicides against women, children and older adults than other developing nations, Miller said.

As his presentation came to a close, Miller commented on how — in the 17 years he has been studying gun-related statistics — only recently has he been able to formulate this data. This is because the Centers for Disease Control has often cut off funding for studying gun violence which, Miller said, can be attributed to NRA-backed Congress members.

In Cornell’s statements, he dissected much of what the Second Amendment of the Constitution actually means.

“Very few people actually quote the Second Amendment in its entirety,” Cornell said.

He noted that there are several “myths” surrounding the Second Amendment, one being the “Red Dawn Myth.” In this example, gun owners think the public needs AR-15 assault rifles because average citizens need the same firepower as the government.

But, Cornell argued, if that were the case, then citizens who attempt to arm themselves with the same level of weaponry could be violating the portion of the constitution which explicitly outlaws treason — defined as taking up arms against the government.

He also noted that, while there is a right to bear arms in the Constitution, there were state constitutions in the 18th century which contained specific clauses prohibiting the right to bear arms. This happened, Cornell explained, because some Americans at the time did not want to be forced to fight in a militia if they wanted to abstain for religious reasons.

Goss' remarks centered on the gun control movement, while it died down throughout the early 2000s, is now back to a level of interest not seen since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.


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