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Gun Talks Get Local

Residents discuss Second Amendment at Constitution Day

The Village of Westbury hosted its fifth annual Constitution Day celebration recently, giving residents and local legal experts the chance to discuss the hot button issue of the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. 


Held in Village Hall, several high-profile speakers were invited to discuss their viewpoints on a number of firearm-related issues and their effects. From the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012 to the recent rampage at the

Washington Navy Yard, gun control and the right to bear arms have become huge issues for Americans. 


Honorable Thomas F. Liotti, a Village Justice, ran the event, and his opening remarks in front of an audience of local residents served to drive home the importance of both Constitution Day and the topic of the evening’s discussion.


“This year’s program is on the inexhaustible topic of the right to bear arms, a timely and controversial subject,” he said. “The question for us to consider tonight is a legal, philosophical, practical, and ethical one. Is the Second Amendment something that should be retained, abolished, or amended?”


Peter Cavallaro spoke on local government and the right to bear arms, saying he was doing so not in his capacity of Mayor of the Village of Westbury, but as a private citizen and an attorney.


“Gun laws that are reasonable in Texas aren’t necessarily going to be reasonable in New York. We have different issues, different sensibilities, different problems,” Cavallaro said. “We need to establish what is reasonable. On one hand, you could have the right to carry any arms you want, and on the other end nobody is allowed to carry any weapons. Neither one of those options are invalid, but somewhere in the middle is the place where legislation should be passed.”


 However, Cavallaro said that the beauty of the Constitution, as it pertains to both gun control or any other aspect of life it governs, is its ability to be amended to suit both circumstance and changing times.


“Every one of our rights in the Constitution is always subject to re-evaluation,” he said. “You can not pick and choose where you can be absolute, and I think that if we had less absolutism in the decision-making process, we’d be better off.”


Honorable Elizabeth Pessala, an associate Village Justice and past President of the Nassau County Bar Association, engaged in a speech on the history of the Second Amendment. She shared how in 1788, James Madison wrote a letter to

Thomas Jefferson, saying that the Constitution needed to be tweaked. 


“The right to bear arms was discussed and eventually made it into the final 10 proposed amendments, which were then carried around for lawmakers to view,” she said. “In 1791, after much discussion and voting by our early representatives who were incredibly passionate about the whole thing, the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights was added.”


Joseph De Felice, an attorney in private practice in Queens and President of the Queens Bar Association, discussed defending those charged with possession of illegal guns. Arthur Dobrin, a former Executive Director of the Ethical Humanist

Society of Long Island, author, and current a professor at Hofstra University, spoke on the ethical and moral issues surrounding the right to bear arms.


“Ultimately, we’re not really assessing what is legal or what is Constitutional here. What we’re more concerned with is our notion of ethics,” he said. “What we would all like to have is a way that we could all live together for our mutual satisfaction. What are your values? What do you value? What kind of life do you want to live? That is, ultimately, what the Constitution is really about, and we will constantly re-evaluate the Constitution, because we will always have different notions about what is important to us and what values we hold dear.”