Community Conversation: Gun violence to be debated

With the nation’s attention focused on gun violence and gun safety, the Community Conversation Forum is hosting “A Conversation about Gun Violence” discussion at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at the Grand Haven Community Center, 421 Columbus Ave.
Mar 20, 2013


The forum is designed to foster a civil discussion among those holding divergent views on gun violence and its causes and possible solutions. Dennis Swain, an attorney in Beulah and a former Manistee County prosecutor; and Dr. Lia Gaggino, a Kalamazoo pediatrician and board president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, present their views on the issue in this column.

To join the conversation, register at

Dennis Swain:

The sometimes rancorous debate over gun violence has taken center stage once again. How we keep bad men from doing bad things to innocent people is one of history’s most enduring questions. Unfortunately, there are no fast and easy answers, and there are no panaceas.

In Heller v. District of Columbia, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the right to keep and bear arms is a personal, individual Constitutional Right. From a legal standpoint, that means that it carries the same weight as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to due process of law, and so on. The court later held that the Second Amendment is totally incorporated within the 14th Amendment and is binding upon the states. It is the supreme law of the land.

The Heller majority recognized that the Second Amendment rights may be appropriately regulated. How and why such regulation may occur is very important, and it must be understood if this debate is to remain civil and productive.

Since the right to keep and bear arms is a personal and individual right conferred upon citizens by the Constitution, it must be first understood that any legislation that attempts to infringe upon those rights is presumed to be unconstitutional.

The government, and not the citizen, then has the burden of proving that there is a compelling state interest that justifies the regulation. That interest must be applied narrowly. It may only be applied in the furtherance of limited interest of the state, and it must be applied in a way that preserves the constitutional liberty being protected.

Some will take issue with this thesis, but it is rooted in very solid American constitutional law. The same presumption and test applies to your right to speak, your right to worship as you choose, your right to peaceably assemble, your right to vote, your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents, your right to a fair trial, your right to legal representation, your right to due process of law, and your right to be left alone. Yes, that individual right to privacy that assures us that we may make important personal choices without undue interference by the government carries the same presumption of unconstitutionality and compelling state interest test with it.

Before we decide to willy-nilly tear down a constitutional guarantee that we do not understand, and that we do not like, let us ask ourselves this question: "If we allow the government to breach the firewall of the Bill of Rights this time, what justifies our belief that another piece of the firewall will not be the target the next time?"

Dr. Lia Gaggino:

The Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is a diverse group of more than 1,700 pediatricians. Our mission is to identify, develop and manage opportunities to improve the health, well-being and safety of the children and young adults in Michigan, with an emphasis on prevention.

Gun-related violence affects the safety and well-being of Michigan’s children and young adults. A child may be a victim, perpetrator or witness. Our hope is that we can respect the rights of the legal and responsible gun owners while improving youth safety and well-being. We view this as a shared goal with diverse groups of people who all have a stake in the health and well-being of Michigan youth.

As pediatricians, we advocate for the reduction of gun-related injuries and deaths of children and youth, just as we have done in attempts to reduce motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths.

We support several measures to reduce gun-related injuries and deaths in Michigan. Regarding firearm safety, our recommendation is to require mandatory background checks and waiting periods for all firearm purchases; eliminate the gun-show loophole; enact an assault weapon ban and ban on high-capacity magazines; enact consumer product regulations regarding child access, safety and design of guns; and continue to advocate for trigger-lock use and safe storage of firearms and ammunition.

In the area of access to mental health care, our recommendation is to improve identification and treatment of mental illness in children and teens, improve access to ongoing management for those identified with mental illness, and educate families of children with mental illness about the potential hazards of firearm access.

Lastly, we support efforts to reduce exposure to violent media content and advocate for increased child-positive media content.




Before we tear down a constitutional guarantee we don't like? Who is we? Diverse views? This is an anti gun set up, typical GH politically correct, mindless BS. GH and Michigan have always been hide under the bed rather than protect yourselves promoters. Above all they are status symbol morons, espousing the latest views to be popular and right thinking. What a load!


How serious is this discussion going to be? Barely a one day notice of this "Community meeting" Under Panel included in the discussions on the Agenda: TBD, Gun Rights Advocate! Looks like this should be a balanced discussion.


Well what a cowink-a-dink...Gun Rights Advocate has been removed from the Community meeting agenda less then 24 hours after the TBD was pointed out and less then 12 hours before the meeting!!! Anyone can see the hidden agenda here!

Back to the Wall

This is a set up.

Since when is a pediatrician qualified to represent a constitutional law position? An attorney/ former prosecutor is, but a physician? For crying out loud!

It'll be a bait and switch / accusation fest of everyone who isn't in favor of weakening constitutional rights. If you don't support the AAP's position you will be vilified as a knuckledragging, mouth breathing, baby killer.

The gun control platform is trying to convince you to give up your rights.
Stay away.
Stay away.


What is the common denominator that makes up a good, knowledgeable, and well qualified guest expert on guns and gun violence? Those that are Doctors, a Ph.D. in anything, Mayors, Police Chiefs, District and Prosecuting Attorney’s, and any Politician, former Politician, and Talk Show Host from TV or Radio. You see, it matters not whether any of the Guest Speakers have ever owned or held any kind of firearm in their life, as long as they have a strong anti-gun opinion and whether it’s based on fact or fiction doesn’t matter as long as they believe what they are saying is true is what counts. Since the Newtown Sandy Hook School Shooting I have listened to scores of NPR Radio Talk Shows that feature discussions with guest panels made up of the so called “Gun Experts” which by shows end have condemned a specific make and model of “Assault Rifle” for everything that took place at the crime scene and very seldom if ever does the discussion talk about the individual(s) behind the gun. What I have yet to see or hear of is a program that features victim’s who used their own legal firearm to save their own life as well as other innocent civilians lives who most likely would have been murdered by the assailant if not for their courage and knowledge of their firearm. Every single day there are usually several life and death incidents that take place in cities and towns across the country where a school age son or daughter, home or store owner, law abiding citizen uses their legal firearm to defuse and end a conflict which involved an attacker(s) armed with a gun(s) or other potentially lethal weapon(s) with the intent of causing great bodily harm or murder. There is a website dedicated to gathering these stories from across the nation for all to have easy access to and their name is, “Guns Save Lives” at:
This is the place to visit and read about law abiding men, women, and children who used their gun to save their life, their family’s lives, and other innocent people’s lives in the face of extreme danger.

I have absolutely no interest in listening to a panel of these so-called “Experts” give their overinflated baseless opinion on a topic they have very little if any real life experience or knowledge of.


Hmm after we deal with guns maybe we should fix women's right to vote and resend the rules on search and seizure oh and Property rights too. It becomes a house of cards and all comes down. Hmmm maybe that's what its all about. There are people among us that if they don't like something no one should be able to do it. These are the same folk that blame the furnaces not the Nazis.


Hmm after we deal with guns maybe we should fix women's right to vote and resend the rules on search and seizure oh and Property rights too. It becomes a house of cards and all comes down. Hmmm maybe that's what its all about. There are people among us that if they don't like something no one should be able to do it. These are the same folk that blame the furnaces not the Nazis.


I'd be interested in the opinions of any readers or commenters on this page that might have attended last night. I thought it was a well-organized, balanced discussion, with plenty of opportunities for questions and open discussion. The panelists seemed fair and balanced, and were clearly experts in the particular field they represented, including the gun store owner.


And how do you draw this conclusion if you did not attend? From the write up today, it does not appear much was accomplished! We don't have a gun issue in west Michigan is what I read unless you go into the gang areas! We need a comunity meeting to discuss why we have community meetings with out end results. If you need to feel like you are contributing to your communty be a big brother or sister to a disadvantaged youth.

"We have a great community with low crime and low gun violence" Why did we just have a meeting to discuss this? I don't get it unless we are just trying to continue the hype around the proposed (failed attempt) gun ban and attacks on the 2nd Amendment.


Why do you assume I wasn't there? I do think it is safe to assume I was not the gun dealer who spoke.

Why do you assume this meeting has no contributing end results to the community, and that those who attend are not contributing to their communities in other ways, as well?

Are you attacking 1st Amendment rights as being attacks on the 2nd?


I was there as well, Lanivan. I went there primarily to try to determine what IS the level of gun violence in our community. If there is, what could/should be done about it.

The program was loosely structured upon the format used by the group that began the series of civil discussions at the Loutit Library last fall, but I don't believe it was sponsored by them.

The big difference was the group of panelists that were allowed to make opening remarks about the topic. No explanation was given for why each of them were chosen. I presume they were there to provide the initial points for discussion. It appeared they were given wide latitude about what they wanted to say, and how long they needed to make their points. During their remarks, we in the audience were encouraged to submit questions to the moderator who then presented them to the panel in the Q&A session that followed.

The audience was then allowed to have an open discussion in groups of 4-8 members. At the end, we compiled a list of comments or recommendations and each person got to vote for their top 2 recommendations. These were collected at the end of the evening to be collated. My understanding is that we collectively formulated a position statement to be given to our community leaders for their consideration.

I will watch expectantly for that to occur and what exactly it will conclude.

FYI: I don't believe anyone on the panel was a gun shop owner; Mr. Dulan's FATHER owned one and that was his introduction to gun ownership.


Thanks for the FYI. I was not in the room when the discussion started, and was told later that a gun shop owner had spoken. Your understanding a compilation of data will be given to the media and community leaders is correct. Some feel that the project will not result in anything concrete, but I disagree. I think giving people a chance to voice their opinions and concerns, knowing these opinions are valuable and will be part of a report is a win-win. Some have expressed that the program would be unbalanced or a "set-up" - I didn't see any signs of either, and in fact, thought it was organized expressly to avoid both possible scenarios.

Gun violence, whether in our community, state, or country, is a complex and all- important issue, and requires as much understanding, dialogue, and education as possible. I appreciate this attempt to address all three.


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