GSU weighs in on gun control debate

The nation has been gridlocked in a heated debate over the issue of gun control since the Dec. 14 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six adults dead. Citizens and legislators across the nation have been calling for stricter gun control policies, including a ban on civilian ownership of military-style weapons and ammunition. 

Despite the numerous calls for such bans, very little has been done-nearly two months after the Sandy Hook tragedy- to produce legislature that many, including President Barack Obama, believe will prevent another such tragedy. In January, Mr. Obama issued 23 executive orders which included the call for stronger background checks and a ban on semi-automatic weapons.  “I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make the proposals a reality,” the president said, according to a Huffington Post Jan. 16 article. 

Unfortunately for the president, many are against any gun ban, and are not afraid to challenge any gun control proposal by the president or anyone else for that matter. 

Among the opponents of gun control is the influential National Rifle Association which has called bans on firearms a violation of the Second Amendment. The NRA has consistently and intensely argued that the reintroduction of the gun ban, which expired in 2004, will not prevent any future attacks like that at Sandy Hook. Instead the NRA insists that, now more than ever, Americans need guns to protect themselves, now more than ever. 

The association has also called for armed guards to be placed in every school to deter any future attacks on schools. The NRA has even pledged to fund a group that will draft a program to place armed guards in schools across the nation. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” insists NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, according to a CNN report on Jan. 21. This is a sentiment shared by some right here in Grambling, including an officer of the law who in an interview for this article echoed LaPierre’s words. 

The officer, who wishes to remain anonymous, also strongly believes that a ban on guns is a violation of the Second Amendment. In addition, the officer feels that due to the fact that many criminals possess assault weapons, law abiding citizens should have access to the same type of weapons. “Don’t you want to have similar fire power to protect yourself when criminals attack you?” the officer asked.

Ashley Stormbreaker, a history major here at GSU, who lives in Ruston and has used a high-powered rifle to hunt agrees with the officer. She believes that the nation was founded on the right to bear arms, and it would be a mistake to ban semi-automatic weapons, as it would put law abiding citizens at a disadvantage. According to Stormbreaker, “We wouldn’t have the need for semi-automatic weapons if criminals didn’t already have them.”

But another history major, Kenneth Wallace from Dubberly, disagrees with Stormbreaker. Wallace believes the proposed gun restrictions do not violate the Second Amendment, and he sees the problem from the other end of the spectrum. “As long as there are these guns, the wrong people are going to get their hands on them and future incidents (such as Sandy Hook) will occur,” said Wallace.

This difference in opinion is not limited to the History department. Senior Criminal Justice major Kyndra Todd notes that “There is nothing that the government can do to stop crime as far as guns are concerned.” She believes that banning guns will not reduce gun crimes. Todd referenced the Cesare Beccaria theory of free will as she noted that criminals are going to act on that free will to commit crimes, no matter what type of guns they have access to. 

On the other hand, criminal justice graduate student April Davis believes that “While we need guns to protect ourselves, a regular person should not possess a semi-automatic weapon. It’s just not necessary”

Senior political science major Timothy Hernandez agrees with Davis. He believes that while the Second Amendment right to bear arms should be protected “It is not necessary for a regular citizen to own a semi-automatic.” Hernandez sees the proposals by President Obama as simply putting “tighter restrictions” on the types of guns people may possess; restrictions that Hernandez thinks are necessary. 

As one can see, even here in the “Sportsman Paradise” where hunting is fair game, there is a divide on the issue of gun control, and like the lawmakers, neither side of that divide is willing to walk away from their beliefs. It also begs the question, “What impact if any would any ban on guns have on Louisiana’s hunting tourism?” The local law enforcement officer who was mentioned earlier thinks a ban would have a negative effect.

On the other hand, Wallace, the history major, does not think a ban would have an effect since it is impractical for one to use a semi-automatic weapon to hunt.

At this point in time, it is difficult to say who is right or wrong on the issue of gun control, as both sides pose compelling arguments. Is there an end to the debate in sight? 

Hernandez does not think the matter will be settled any time soon because of the role party politics plays in getting laws passed. Nonetheless, he hopes that lawmakers put their differences aside and come to a compromise.