University of Vermont

University Communications

Gun Control Panel to Launch Janus Forum Debate Series

September 14 Event Aims to Bring New Perspective to Polarized Issue

The debate over gun control is one of the most polarizing in America.

Proponents of stricter gun laws point to the fact that Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries.

Opponents counter that shooters will always be able to procure guns and that the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

Three experts – a legal scholar, a social scientist and a philosopher – aim to bring nuance and new dimension to this issue in a Janus Forum panel discussion scheduled for 3 p.m. on September 14 in the Livak Ballroom at Davis Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Sanford Levinson, a faculty member in the University of Texas/Austin’s law school and a professor of government at the university, is a renowned constitutional law expert. He will address the extent to which the U.S. Constitution protects an individual’s gun ownership rights. 

Cassandra Crifasi is a highly regarded social scientist in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a core faculty member in the university’s Center for Gun Policy and Research. She will discuss evidence showing that additional gun controls decrease rates of violent crime. 
Michael Huemer, an expert in ethics and political philosophy, is a faculty member in the Philosophy Department at the University of Colorado/Boulder. He argues that the freedom to own a gun supersedes the harms guns cause.

The discussion will be moderated by UVM philosophy professor Don Loeb.

“The goal of the Janus Debate series is to bring attention to important and controversial policy issues and to challenge people to reflect on their views in the light of well argued contrary positions,” said Richard Vanden Bergh, a professor in UVM’s Grossman School of Business and a founder of the debate series.

“Everyone stands to benefit from that kind of self-examination,” he said.

This year for the first time, the Janus Debate series has engaged the university’s student debating organization, the Lawrence Debate Union, to both promote its debates and widen their impact.

Two student debaters in the LDU, Kaya Sittinger and Alex von Stange, will interview the panelists and post the transcripts of the conversations on the Janus Forum website.         

Another student debater, Charlotte Gliserman, will promote the events through the LDU’s social media channels. 

Members of the debate organization, one of the highest ranked in the world, will also meet with the panelists over lunch. The experience, said Sittinger, will be valuable for students since it’s likely they’ll debate the gun control issue during debate contests with other schools over the year.

For the spring semester, the Janus Debate series will address the question: “Yes or No: Should Speech Be Restricted on Campus?”

For more information on the Janus Forum and the gun control panel, visit the program’s website.

The Janus Forum is sponsored by the families of James Pizzagalli and John Hilton.