A law professor from Texas called for repealing and replacing the Second Amendment during a symposium Friday on constitutional gun rights at the University of Connecticut’s School of Law.
Texas A&M University Law Professor Mary Margaret Penrose spoke as part of a panel discussion on tragedy and gun control. Penrose cited several high-profile shootings, including the Newtown murders and a 2011 shooting in Arizona that left six people dead and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded. She said she was shocked that the country has not yet reached a threshold for gun violence
Penrose asked the audience — a room packed full of lawyers and law school students — how many of them felt the legislative and judicial responses to gun violence have been effective. Not a single hand went up.
“I think I’m in agreement with you and, unfortunately, drastic times require drastic measures,” Penrose said. “. . . I think the Second Amendment is misunderstood and I think it’s time today, in our drastic measures, to repeal and replace that Second Amendment.”
Rather than applying the amendment to all states, Penrose recommended striking the provision to enable individual states greater discretion in determining their own gun policies.
“The beauty of a ‘states’ rights model’ solution, is it allows those of you who want to live in a state with strong restrictions to do so and those who want to live in a state with very loose restrictions to do so,” she said.
Penrose said she advocates redrafting the entire U.S. Constitution when she teaches constitutional law courses. She said American life has changed drastically since the 18th Century when the constitution was adopted.
“Why do we keep such an allegiance to a constitution that was driven by 18th Century concerns? How many of you recognize that the main concern of the 18th Century was a standing army? That’s what motivated the Second Amendment: fear of a standing army,” she said.
Penrose, who described herself as “somewhat agnostic about guns but extremely passionate about the United States Constitution,” said she had expected her proposal to be very controversial. But she felt more at ease after listening to remarks by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who spoke at the symposium Friday morning.
Malloy defended a law passed this year that tightened state gun control restrictions in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Although he spoke before any of Friday’s panel discussions, the governor seemed to anticipate some questioning of the law’s constitutionality.
“This being a legal symposium, I’m quite certain the constitution will be thrown around quite a bit,” he said. “We support in our state the constitutional right to have arms. But no right is without its limitations.”
Although there is a right to practice religions, society has accepted that there is no right to practice human sacrifice or polygamy, Malloy said. Collectively, we have recognized limitations on the right to free speech, he said.
“There are other rights that we all agree have limitations. It really is only this one particular point that our society clashes on, and that one side honestly and I think truly believes there should be no limitations,” he said. “But, as you can probably surmise, I think they’re wrong.”
Malloy did not call for a repeal of the Second Amendment, but he did say he believes Connecticut and other states have the right to decide what the appropriate regulation of firearms is within the confines of the state and federal constitution. He said he recognized that other states would choose different regulation models, or may chose not to regulate guns.
Malloy also said he hopes the federal government will ultimately put into place laws that allow states that have chosen to properly regulate gun ownership to have a legal framework to prevent those guns from getting into their state.
Penrose said her proposal would accomplish that goal and return to the states the power to regulate guns.
“Do I think this is going to happen? No. Do I think it’s a better solution than the legislative response? Absolutely,” she said.
Not everyone on the panel was supportive of efforts to pass gun-control restrictions. South Texas College of Law Professor Josh Blackman said that history tells us that many gun control laws were racially motivated.
“The first gun control laws were actually meant to subjugate slaves. There has been a very close connection between gun control and racism,” he said.