Letters: Gun debates, Nesson, and divesting in Israel

BY

Target shooting club founder urges more gun debates

In a RECORD story last year, Daniel Swanson said he would like to have “a public discussion with the HLS Target Shooting Club.” I would like to have a public discussion with Daniel. That’s what the club is all about. In our first year, we’ve only had one speaker — John Lott, discussing his paper on multiple-victimpublic shootings — but more speakers and debates is always better. We are in full agreement. Daniel wants to discuss accidental shootings — sounds great. I look forward to having that debate, and would enjoy co-sponsoring firearms-related events with interested organizations of any political stripe (especially if they have a bigger budget than we do).But I part company with Daniel when he suggests that “publicly advancing the beliefs” that guns can be used as a “force for good,” as I did in a recent Economist article, is at odds with making a “balanced and constructive contribution” to the gun debate. One can advance the gun debate without everything having to be a debate.

Neither Daniel, nor I, nor the Target Shooting Club, need be neutral, apolitical observers. We’re lawyers. We work within an adversarial system.

Nor does advancing the debate require that we all embrace cost-benefit analysis and compromise. In fact, I suspect that Daniel himself isn’t a compromiser. He starts out calling for “balanced and constructive contribution[s]” to the gun debate and “balancing benefits against risks” — but then calls it “incontrovertible” that child shootings are“unacceptable” and that we should “ensure that those shootings cease.” This is not cost-benefit language — benefits of gun ownership are now noticeably absent. Nor do I demand that language of him. The best debate involves details and listening to the other side, but it also involves passionate commitments and principled positions, which I hope we both have. My rule of thumb: Argue what you believe, whether it’s moderate or hard-line.

Another rule of thumb: Have fun whenever possible, whether it’s “counter-cultural rebellion” or screening movies featuring “regular people using guns as a force for good.” Please attend our debates, but also come to our screening of Red Dawn. And, regardless of your views on gun control, come shooting with us. All are welcome.

— Sasha Volokh, 3L

Alum laments this semester’s lack of Nesson

I was distressed to read in the Washington Post that students at the Law School were to be denied the benefits of Professor Charles Nesson’s pedagogy for this semester. The reports did not make clear why that was so. My experience was that Professor Nesson’s courses were among the most stimulating and thought provoking, and therefore most valuable. I remember well his Constitutional Litigation Workshop seminar, which combined sound academics and real world practice considerations. I have carried what I learned there with me since, as a litigator and law teacher. I hope this hiatus is temporary.

— Mark Kreitman ‘75

Harvard should not divest its Israel investments

I was a member of Harvard’s Investment Advisory Committee and helped to draft Harvard’s policy on investments in South Africa. As you may recall, Harvard did not follow the path of other universities by divesting from South Africa. Instead, we decided to invest in companies that promoted equality of the races in South Africa, and I think that history has vindicated the approach that Harvard adopted.I recently received word that 39 Harvard professors have signed a petition for Harvard to divest from Israel. As with South Africa, I believe that boycotting investments would hurt the situation more than help it. I also believe that it would send the wrong message to the world about Harvard’s stance on terrorism.

Israelis believe that they are fighting for their survival and that their only tentative ally is the U.S. If the U.S. or U.S. companies withdraw their support from Israel, this will only increase Israel’s sense of isolation and desperation. The end result will be that Israelis will have less reason to hope for a peaceful settlement and more reason to turn to military solutions.

As for terrorism, Israel has lost more people on a proportional basis through terrorist bombings than the U.S. lost on 9/11. After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. took the commendable position that terrorism was unacceptable under any circumstances and that anyone who supported terrorism was a terrorist. If Harvard now boycotts Israel for its response to terrorist attacks, it will be rewarding terrorists at the expense of their victims.
I, like many Americans and like many Jews, have mixed feelings about Ariel Sharon’s approach in the Middle East. However, I leave for work every morning without any fear that myself or loved ones will fall victim to a suicide bomber during the course of the day. If a neighbor of the U.S. were regularly sending suicide bombers into our country, I have no doubt that U.S. citizens would demand military action until they felt safe to walk the streets. Is it unfair for Israeli families to demand the same?

I, for one, do not know the best course of action to resolve the death spiral that we are experiencing in the Middle East. However, I do know that boycotting investments is the wrong choice for both pragmatic and ethical reasons. During difficult times in South Africa, Harvard demonstrated leadership by adopting a pragmatic and ethical investment strategy. Harvard once again has the opportunity to take a leadership position by not boycotting Israel. Please stand firm against terrorism and denounce the boycott of investments in Israel.

— Ethan Cohen, M.B.A. ‘91

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