Symposium 2012: With the recent Sandy Hook school massacre, is it time to reconsider the issue of gun control?

Sydney: The answer to this question is a resounding yes and it is heartening to hear that the President is keen to make changes. However, this is something easier said than done. The NRA is one of the most influential political lobby groups in the United States and they will not allow changes to the law without a fight. Their suggestion that all school Principals should be armed is a clear indication that the Sandy Hook massacre has not altered their views. The Republicans are also unlikely to support any significant changes to the law. Having said this it is possible that President Obama might be able to get agreement from Congress to introduce a law to ban the sale of assault weapons. This is a law that was passed by the Clinton administration but later expired as part of a sunset clause.
The NRA and its supporters will always cling to their Constitutional right to bear arms. This is fair enough. However, it is does not justify the fact that an American can purchase any type of gun without undergoing background checks at gun shows across the country. This is a ridiculous situation. We should also remember that when the Constitution was written there was no such thing as an automatic or semi automatic weapon.
Michigan: Sandy Hook was a real tragedy. We all feel for any parent who lost a child and for the teachers. We have no way of stopping random acts of violence. Someone intent on doing harm to someone else will find a way. I believe in the 2nd amendment. At the time the 2nd amendment was written they could never have dreamed how weapons would advance. I am a gun owner and a hunter in my younger days. I do not understand why citizens need automatic weapons or clips that can hold hundreds of rounds. We need to secure our schools but I am not really in favor of arming and training our teachers. We also need to do a better check on gun purchases. We need to get guns off the streets even if it means profiling. This is another one of these social issues that may never get resolved.
RMC3: No, you can’t stop every crazy or evil person from carrying out an attack like this by stricter gun control. If they want a gun and can’t get it legally, they’ll get it on the black market. The massacres that have happened have been horrific; there’s no doubt about that but if you start stripping about our second amendment rights you’re just looking for trouble. At that point, only the criminals would have guns and innocent people wouldn’t be able to defend themselves.

But by the same token, I’m really torn on the issue of automatic weapons like assault rifles. From a practical perspective, why does anyone really need an assault rifle? You can’t hunt with it. A hand gun or shotgun is just as effective in protecting your home or property as an assault rifle. But nonetheless, if you start with a ban on assault rifles, what’s next? It would set a dangerous precedent that I fear would lead to an erosion of the second amendment.

Rather than control the availability of guns or ammunition, let’s do more thorough background checks on people purchasing guns. You have to have a license to drive a car, and to get that license you have to take a written test and go through the driving test. Why not have everyone who wants to purchase a gun go through a weapons class, screen them, train them and educate them about guns, gun use, and safety? A good instructor or one with specialized training should be able to pick out individuals that may be problematic.

Cartwright: No more gun control! The solution is real simple: Give everyone a gun and let them carry it in a holster just like in the Old West. Then you know who has a gun. If you go crazy or try to pull a stunt like the massacre in New Town, you might get one or two people but then someone else is going to take you down. That would really level the playing field when it comes to guns.

I understand how emotional this issue is for people. These tragedies are terrible, but you can’t stop every rogue killer. And I agree that there is no practical use for assault rifles today, and I know we’ve talked a lot in the past and it has come up at some of the champagne summits we’ve had here about the original intent of the Founding Fathers. They were living in a time when you had muskets and flintlocks, and some people use that to argue against assault rifles. But here’s what we need to consider.

The original intent of the Founding Fathers in drafting the Constitution and the Second Amendment was to ensure that the people had the ability to defend themselves against tyrants. In those days, having muskets or flintlocks put you on a level playing field with everyone else. No one had machine guns or superior weaponry. Our technology has evolved significantly. If we’re still to bear arms to protect ourselves from tyrants, we have to have access to comparable technology. A six shooter or a pistol isn’t going to do much when the stormtroopers comes to your neighborhood with assault rifles. Of course, we can’t do much against tanks or missles or bombs, but at least we have arms that are of a comparable nature as the forces of would-be tyrants. Dictators and tyrants love an unarmed populace. They’re not threat to the powers that be. We must not allow ourselves to ever be put in a disadvantaged position of protecting ourselves from a dictator or tyrant.

Now, having said that, I would be much in favor of requiring every person who owns or wishes to purchase any firearm to go through the necessary concealed weapons class or registered weapons class and undergo the stringent background checks. Let’s not address gun control by limiting our access to guns but rather let’s address gun control by ensuring that the people who do purchase and own guns are properly trained and screened. We will never prevent tragedies from happening. Someone or something is always going to slip through the cracks, but we can make it less likely with proper screening and permitting while respecting the right of law abiding citizens to maintain their arms.

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