Gun debate sparks local reactions
February 12, 2013
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President Barack Obama recently unveiled his gun control proposals in response to the December shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The proposals have sparked debate about gun ownership across the country, including in LZ.
The killing of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown prompted the President to take executive action and propose legislation for stricter enforcement of guns, criminal background checks for purchasing guns, and the reinstatement of a ban on assault weapons.
For some LZHS students and faculty, the debate over gun ownerships hits home, as they or their parents legally own guns for recreational use at shooting ranges, hunting, collection, or for protection.
Ian Silverman, English teacher, first purchased guns for target shooting when he was younger, and while he still owns guns, his views on owning them have shifted.
“I was all for [guns] when I was a kid, but as I get older, I’m starting to see the downside of it,” Silverman said. “There are a lot of people getting killed; a lot of places getting shot up: schools and other public places. You realize what these guns in the wrong hands can do, and it kind of changes how you see the need to own them.”
Silverman says the process for obtaining a gun license is too easy, and he supports the President’s proposal for all gun buyers to undergo a background check before purchasing a gun. Opponents of the new measures, however, argue that criminals might not be legally purchasing weapons and therefore a background check does little.
“Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation,” Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), said in a post on the NRA’s website. “Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”
Public opinion on gun control remains relatively split, as proven by a Pew Research Center poll conducted after the July Aurora, Colorado shootings. The poll found that 47 percent of Americans said it was more important to control gun ownership, while 46 percent said it was more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns.
While public opinion on gun rights is split, many people are shifting their focus to identifying and treating psychological disorders.
“I’m not convinced the biggest takeaway from Newtown has anything to do with guns; I think it has to do with how our society treats people with mental and emotional disorders far more than it really has anything to do with the guns,” Silverman said. “Societies with far more stringent gun control are also facing these things, so the real question isn’t, ‘how did this happen because of guns?’ The question is, ‘how didn’t people see that this person was in need of support and care of treatment?’”
The debate over gun control will continue as Congress takes public opinion and the President’s proposals into account and decides whether or not to pursue legislative action. One senior, who asked to remain unnamed because of mixed public opinion, said his father owns guns that he uses at shooting ranges. He said his father taught him the magnitude of owning a gun and that “it’s a big deal.”
“You should take caution, responsibility, and awareness to a whole new level,” the senior said. “Even when you’re not using it you have to be aware.”
John Madden, accounting teacher who has a gun license but does not own guns, agrees. He advises students to educate themselves about the positives and negatives of owning a gun.
“If [a student] wants to be a gun owner in the future, they should be trained with a responsible adult, whether that be a parent or a Boy Scout leader, to teach them about it. People shouldn’t just buy guns to buy guns,” Madden said. “You should be educated in how it works, proper safety precautions, how to lock it up, where to lock it up, and just be educated on it. Don’t do it just to do it.”