November 12, 2010

Forum at SIUC will focus on Second Amendment

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The issue of gun ownership rights in Illinois will be the focus of a forum next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“The Second Amendment in Focus,” will be at 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 15, in the Student Center Auditorium. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is sponsoring the event. Admission is free, and the event is open to the public.

Kayne Robinson, former president of the National Rifle Association; Chris Boyster, with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence; and Leonard Gross, a professor at the SIU School of Law, will participate in the forum.

“Few issues are more controversial than issues surrounding handguns,” said David Yepsen, Institute director. “People from urban areas often have views that sharply differ from those held by people in rural areas. In addition, there’s a been a recent Supreme Court ruling involving the Second Amendment and Chicago’s handgun ordinances that affects the debate.”

The forum provides an opportunity “to explore these questions” and bring in experts “to offer different points of view, “ Yepsen said.

“Perhaps there is a middle ground to be found,” he said. “Perhaps not. Perhaps all we’ll do is just come away with a better understanding of the questions involved.”

Robinson is executive director of the NRA’s general operations, and was the organization’s president and vice president from 1997 to 2004. His other executive experience includes chair of the Iowa Republican Party from 1999 to 2001, assistant police chief with the Des Moines, Iowa, police department, and president of the Iowa Association of Chiefs of Police and the Iowa Sportsman’s Federation. He was also vice president of the recent re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

Robinson served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1963 to 1967, and is a graduate of Drake University.

Boyster has worked for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence for 12 years, where he works “on educating people about the effects of gun violence in our communities.”

Boyster said he will provide a short review of the issue and how the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence “approached the problem.” There will also be a short discussion of recent Supreme Court cases that involve handgun issues, and a “small overview of where we see the legislature going on this issue,” he said.

Recently elected to the Sangamon County Board, Boyster has a bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism from Eastern Illinois University. He also previously worked for the Illinois Pork Producers Association.

Gross has been a member of the Southern Illinois University School of Law faculty since 1983, and will retire from SIUC at the end of the fall semester in December.

Gross said he will talk about the kinds of gun regulations that are constitutionally permissible, as well as the standard of review for regulations. There are numerous ongoing court cases throughout the country that involve municipal ordinances and state regulations, he said.

Supreme Court rulings protect individual rights, and also indicate it is not merely a right aimed at protecting the militia, Gross said. However, the court also said it is subject to regulation and that there is not an unlimited right to bear arms.

Gross earned his bachelor’s degree in history from the State University of New York at Binghamton, and his law degree from Boston University School of Law. He practiced corporate litigation law with the Shearman and Sterling law firm for six years before coming to SIUC. His law school courses taught include legal profession, agency and partnership, corporations, federal income taxation, interviewing and counseling and, legal writing and evidence.

Gross is a member and former chair of the Southern Illinois Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, former member of the Carbondale Elementary School District Board, and current president of the Jewish Federation of Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri and Western Kentucky.

For more information on this program, contact the Institute at 618/453-4009 or visit