Op-Ed: Something’s Fishy at the John Glenn Institute
March 1, 2005
The (Ohio State University) Sentinel
by Antonio Ciaccia
Picture this: a public policy institute at Penn State University is awarded money to establish an abortion research center. The money to establish the center is donated by the Christian Coalition, and the appointed director of the center has written op-ed pieces in the past about how abortion is comparable to murder. Then the center releases documents authored by its director that discuss the interpretation of the Constitution that could forbid abortion all together.
Does this sound like a reliable source for fair research?
While the above scenario is fictitious, a very similar situation has arisen at Ohio State, thanks to our very own Second Amendment Research Center (SARC). In March 2003, the John Glenn Institute created SARC to “promote informed discussion of an important policy issue and stimulate interest in history as a dynamic field relevant to current policy issues.” The director of the center, Dr. Saul Cornell, a Constitutional historian, was chosen to shed light on the difficult topic of gun policy.
Cornell was no stranger to the issue of the Second Amendment. He had written on the topic many times before. In 2001, Cornell published a piece entitled “The Second Amendment Under Fire,” where he attempted to provide a fair analysis of the gun debate. In the piece, he invokes an idea that has been pushed by gun control advocates- the idea that the Second Amendment is a collective right. This interpretation of the amendment states that the right to bear arms is not a right for individuals to own firearms, but instead, a right for the military to bear arms.
In the piece, Cornell gives much credence to the collective rights argument and cites many examples to support the claim, but he offers little evidence from individual rights theorists, resorting to the hefty overstatement that “most historians, however, reject the individual rights interpretation.” This fringe interpretation was to be the basis of much work to come for Cornell. But his collective rights work was not to be his only hypothesis on the subject of gun control.
In 2000, Cornell and several other academics composed an open letter to Charlton Heston and the National Rifle Association, attacking the group’s policy preferences, calling those policies “a disservice to all Americans.” The letter aimed to “prevent the killings and violence that plague our country today.”
While the NRA wasn’t too popular in most circles at the time, this letter was written on an entirely separate premise from his collective rights work, which went into full swing only a year later. A simple timeline of the writings shows that Cornell’s opinion was dead set beforehand on worrying about gun control, rather than Constitutional wording.
Yet despite his past hostility towards the right to bear arms and his highly controversial collective rights view, the Glenn Institute named him director and wanted to set up this research center as an intellectual home for the new collective rights interpretation. In 2003, SARC was established with a $400,000 grant from an alarming source: the Joyce Foundation, one of the nation’s most prominent gun control advocacy groups.
The Joyce Foundation has long been involved in the issue of gun control. It makes yearly donations to anti-firearm groups like Handgun Free America, a group “dedicated to the ban of private handgun ownership in the U.S.” As you can see, the prerequisites for funding from Joyce are not exactly based on two-sided debate. Even more startling is that Handgun Free America received only $35,000, while Ohio State’s SARC was given over eleven times that amount!
Click here for the entire op-ed.