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FIRE Debates at U. of Chicago: Should the Second Amendment Be Amended?

CHICAGO, April 29, 2016—After every mass shooting, the debate over the meaning of the Second Amendment is rehashed in the media and in the court of public opinion. Much of the conversation centers around what the nation’s Founding Fathers intended when the Second Amendment was written over 200 years ago—but would gun control advocates be better off working to amend the Second Amendment?

On Tuesday, May 3, at 6 p.m. Central time, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) will host a debate on the motion “The Second Amendment should be amended” at the University of Chicago. This Oxford-style debate is proudly presented in partnership with the university’s Institute of Politics and will be held in the third floor theater of the university’s Ida Noyes Hall.

Zachary Elkins, an associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, will argue for the motion. Clark Neily, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice (IJ), will argue against the motion. As with all FIRE Debates, FIRE has no institutional position on the debate proposition.


For those unable to attend in person, the debate will be streamed live on FIRE’s YouTube page.

“I’m excited to close out the academic year by hosting a debate on the Second Amendment with the University of Chicago’s esteemed Institute of Politics,” said FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff. “My hope is that through this debate, as with the three previous FIRE debates, students will gain a greater appreciation and a better understanding of the importance of open discussion of controversial topics.”

Zachary Elkins focuses his research on issues of democracy, national identity, and institutional reform, with an emphasis on governments in Latin American countries. Elkins co-authored The Endurance of National Constitutions, which explores the factors that increase the endurance and survival of national constitutions. He is currently completing a book manuscript titled Designed by Diffusion: Constitutional Reform in Developing Democracies, which examines the origins of democratic institutions in the developing world.

In addition to serving as an attorney for IJ, Clark Neily privately represented the plaintiffs in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court case that held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep a gun for self-defense. Neily serves as the director of IJ’s Center for Judicial Engagement, and is the author of Terms of Engagement: How Our Courts Should Enforce the Constitution’s Promise of Limited Government, which discusses how courts can maintain constitutionally limited government.

This is the fourth and final debate in the FIRE Debates series for the 2015–2016 academic year. FIRE Debates was founded with the goal of demonstrating the essential role free inquiry and open discussion serve in both education and democracy.

FIRE is a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at


Katie Barrows, Communications Coordinator, FIRE: 215-717-3473;

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