I recently had to write a statement of position paper for Political Science 101. I decided to write about gun control laws due to the recent shooting incidents and partly because I couldn’t think of anything else good to take a position on. Below is the text of what I wrote. I realize this is a touchy issue for some people, so I tried to keep it as PC as possible. I got an 80%. Meh.
I would have to say that most Americans do not pay any attention to gun control laws until after some kind of major tragedy occurs. I’ve grown up in an environment of NRA card carrying avid sportsmen and must admit that gun control laws cross my mind more frequently then most. Recently in the news, two incidents of domestic terrorism have occurred drawing attention to the topic of the second amendment and the freedoms associated with it. This blog post will explore my position and the reasons behind my stance on the subject.
On July 20, 2012 a shooting occurred at a movie theater in Colorado during the first screening of the new Batman film. The gunman, later identified as James Holmes, opened fire shortly after midnight killing 12 people and injuring others. A few weeks later, on August 5, 2012 another mass shooting took place at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Similar to the Colorado shooting, a single gunman opened fire killing 6 people and injuring several others. The two crimes have a common thread: both gunmen used semi-automatic guns. Both men also suffered from mental health issues that clouded their judgment.
The second amendment dates back to 1689 when the right to have arms in English history was believed to have been regarded as a long-established natural right. In modern times, the second amendment comes with limitations. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. There have been laws created to place limitations on weapon ownership. These laws include such issues as carrying concealed weapons, the need for background checks to own a weapon, and the location of where you could legally carry a weapon. Based on the recent tragedies, it seems that weapons (specifically automatic and semi-automatic guns) still continue to get into the hands of irresponsible people.
Like any other system controlled by federal and state laws, there are loopholes that allow for abuse of “the system”. James Holmes, the suspect in the Colorado movie theater shooting, started to build and create his arsenal of weapons using the Internet. James had a clean record to the point when he had a mental break. The Internet website where he bought these items from had no reason to believe that the weapons would be used for catastrophic purposes so they sold him the guns, protective gear and ammunition he needed to commit murder. Personally, I would not like to see anyone completely lose or have their second amendment rights locked down. I do firmly believe that a gun or any weapon should not be lawfully allowed to be sold over the Internet. I believe that if you are to purchase a weapon that could potentially harm someone or something that it should be purchased in person. It is true that weapon dealers are not psychiatrists, but you can usually a good sense of someone’s personality by spending a short time with them.
I lived in my father’s house for several years, and he hunted several different types of sport legally. He had a gun permit, hunting license and all of the guns that he owned were properly registered. The Internet did not exist when he was fully dedicated to sporting (he now has medical issues that prevent him from hunting as he once did). In order to make a weapon transaction it had to be done face to face. The NRA and the PA Game Commission always preached “safety, safety, safety” in every meeting and demonstration I have ever witnessed or attended. My Dad made sure his guns were locked up and the ammunition was kept separately locked up, and that the triggers had locks. If there was to be an “accident”, there actually would not be an “accident”. If you were able to get through that level of security, it was not an accident.
As cliché as it sounds, I am a firm believer in the old adage “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” If guns get into the wrong hands, specifically those that are not mentally stable, that they could injure or kill someone. If you are insane or upset enough and your mind is set on causing harm to someone, it will happen, whether you use a gun, knife, paperclip, or pen. In my opinion, in addition to the background check that you need to go through to weapon, you should also have submit to a drug/alcohol test as well as a mental health test. Some may argue that this violates privacy laws, but I think that it would weed out any potential mentally unstable people that may be trying to obtain a weapon for the wrong reasons. If a psych evaluation was ordered for the Sikh Temple shooting or Colorado Movie Theater shooting suspects we may have been able to save a few lives.
In closing, I think that the current gun control laws need to be reformed, but not in such a way that cause anyone to lose their basic second amendment rights. I feel that with a little tweaking of the current laws weapon ownership could be more secure for all parties involved. If we do not allow for weapons sales over the internet, require drug/alcohol and psych evaluations that we can get a true insight into who is purchasing a gun and why. These changes, in conjunction with existing laws (background checks, and etc) we could eliminate some of the more problematic people form owning a weapon. I think that the proper security and gun education may go a long way in educating the general public about weaponry.