After the tragic mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, two schools of thoughts emerged on how to avoid this tragedy in the future. The N.R.A. and some conservatives say we should arm our teachers to protect students; left-wing critics say we shouldn’t pass up this opportunity for real gun control measures. Denison students Alex Bookout and Caleb Bower weigh in.
Address the key issues
By Caleb Bower
Special to The Denisonian
It is with caution that I write this article arguing for a position that many feel is indefensible — gun rights. In light of recent events, many in the United States have begun to question the degree to which the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution protects the citizens’ rights to own firearms. Which firearms are permissible? What features of a firearm qualify it to be banned by gun control legislation? I do not claim to possess any definite answers to these questions, and I certainly understand the viewpoints of those who hold that the readily available firearm stockpiles in the U.S. poses a threat to the general public.
Two particular policy questions have arisen in recent weeks relating to this topic: Should schools consider arming members of their administrations or establish full-time armed security officers? Should the United States enact legislation to ban assault weapons? My core stance on the following two issues are that first: Schools should have the freedom to choose whether or not to arm themselves based on their own estimates as to how effective they believe it will be. Secondly: The inherent difficulty in distinguishing an ‘assault weapon’ as a particular subset of firearms prevents any meaningful attempts at stemming the proliferation thereof.
The issue of arming administrations pulls very compelling arguments as to its usefulness and safety.Typical arguments from the opposition claim that the presence of live firearms in schools poses danger to the students present. Others point out that members of the administration may or may not be properly trained in the use of firearms in crisis situations, and thus, will be compromised in their efforts to thwart a shooter.
Many also believe that the mere act of placing armed guards in schools changes the culture of the school in such a way that it detracts from the learning environment, and possibly scares the students.Personally, I hold that schools should have the right to arm themselves in a manner that provides a sphere of protection for the students.
Many college campuses across the United States actively maintain a small locker inside campus security offices where students can stow away their firearms. Public schools doing the same for members of their administrations would have a similar effect. The presence of a small deposit of emergency or temporarily stowed firearms in a locked school administration office safe could possibly serve as a deterrent to school shooters.The second issue regarding the categorization and isolation of ‘assault weapons’ as weapons that serve a contemptible role in mass shootings is also one that needs to be addressed.
My main point is that the ambiguous and seemingly arbitrary standards used to distinguish ‘assault weapons’ from what many recently have been referring to as ‘hunting rifles’ or ‘sporting rifles’ is such that legislation used to criminalize the sale thereof will do very little to address the key issues behind gun violence.
The point remains that the culture of gun violence in America is regrettable. Firearms are to be treated as a means of recreation and for self-defense. With over 300 million firearms amongst the populace already, cracking down on the sale of future weapons seems to be too little too late. Reforming our society in such a way that we treat mental health more seriously, preventing unstable individuals from acquiring firearms, and fostering a sense of responsibility and respect towards firearms would make the most meaningful contribution to solving the problem.
Caleb Bower ’14 is a Political Science major from Eagle River, Alaska.
Guns: More harm than good
By Alex Bookout
Special to The Denisonian
If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that we, as a country, have our fair share of problems with gun violence. These problems have become impossible to ignore. After the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 27 people, including 20 children, were killed, the nation wept as it was one in a line of many tragedies.
A major question raised shortly after was: Should school officials be equipped with guns to prevent another massacre of this scale? Wayne LaPierre, the Vice President of the N.R.A. said shortly after the Newtown tragedy, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The first solution to a school shooting should never be to put more guns onto a campus. Not only would that require teachers to be trained in shooting a gun, but it would also introduce students to guns from a very early age. If their innocence wasn’t already dampened by the Sandy Hook shooting, it would be a sure fire way to create anxiety and fear on campuses across the country. Places of education are meant to be a safe haven where students and faculty can partake in their passions without the threat of violence. Introducing an object designed to cause harm, even to “good guys”, would serve as a reminder that we aren’t as safe as we should be. There is no definite solution to our gun violence problem in America, but there are more efficient ways to prevent school shootings than to introduce guns into the classroom.
One solution that several politicians have proposed is a ban of assault weapons outside of military use. Many have strongly opposed this measure because they view it as a “strict infringement” upon the 2nd Amendment. Consider this: When our Founding Fathers included the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights, the only gun available was a musket. A soldier trained to use a musket could reload his weapon in about a minute, whereas a professional with a semi-automatic rifle can reload a magazine of about 50 rounds in less than a second. The shooter at Aurora used 3 different semi-automatic weapons inside of the theater and if it were not for his magazine of 100 rounds jamming, the death toll could have been much higher.
The right to bear arms is one of our country’s core individual liberties. Politicians are not trying to eradicate this right, nor should they. They are, however, trying to take steps in order to create a safer America. Another solution that politicians and gun owners from both the left and right have continually voiced support for is tighter background checks on those trying to purchase a gun. Keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of former criminals and those with severe mental health problems should be a top priority for the slowing of gun violence.
Regardless of what measures our government puts into effect, there will be some people who find their ways around them. Still, the last thing we should do is sit around and let these massacres become even more commonplace. Actions need to be taken by the government, sacrifices need to be made by gun owners, and voices need to be heard by citizens in order to limit gun violence in America. The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to make sure that bad guy never gets a gun.
Alex Bookout ’15 is a history and communication double major from Coronado, Calif.