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Opinion | School shooting brings to light issues of gun regulation, modification of Constitution

Kiel's Commentary

By Kiel Hawk
On February 1, 2013

Though mentioning the massacre in Newtown, Conn. and using the term "good thing" in the same sentence seems near impossible to do, Bob Costas came about as close to pulling it off Monday night on "The Daily Show" as a person could get. Of course, he was referring to the good thing being the resulting attention that was brought to the issue of gun violence, not the shooting itself.

As discussions over gun control laws press onward, it's critical to keep in mind that there is always an opportunity to make changes for the better. And as unfortunate as it may be, often it takes tragedy to compel us to make those changes. What would make the situation a bigger tragedy would be to let the 26 deaths at Sandy Hook elementary to transpire and not use them as an impetus to do everything possible to prevent similar instances from happening again.

Early in January, the president proposed that several policies be put into place that would address gun violence issues. The major ones include requiring all gun sales to require a background check, limiting ammunition magazines to a 10-round capacity, banning certain semi-automatic weapons and armor-piercing bullets and providing funding for gun violence research and security personnel.

Needless to say, these propositions have been met with strong resistance by the NRA, other gun-rights advocates and people that are generally convinced that there is a conspiracy in Washington to turn America into a communist country. Wayne Lapierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, has gone so far as to call the president an "elitist hypocrite" and suggest that the government should not dictate what citizens can lawfully own and use to protect their families.

What exactly is the government supposed to do then? It's quite ironic to hear the leader of a primarily conservative organization make such statements when surely most members of the same group are pro-military and favor U.S. attempts to keep nuclear weapons out of dangerous hands. So, they favor intervention and limitation of access to weapons in one sense but not in the other. But the distinction on which they would likely attempt to justify such a position is a futile one. Just because my neighbor thinks it may be appropriate to defend his house with a grenade-launcher doesn't mean that he should be able to do so. A strong case could be made that this is a variety of gun, however. I agree that attempts should be made to keep weapons capable of mass destruction out of the hands of some. Guns are no exception.

Gun rights advocates and several Republican congressmen have been quick to defend gun ownership on the grounds of the Second Amendment. A couple of things are worth mentioning here. First of all, just because something worked at one time in history doesn't mean that it will work at another. The weaponry that existed when the Second Amendment was written was quite different than that which exists now, as are a myriad other variables that should be considered.

Second, and this is on a similar note, people act like just because something is in the constitution that it is sacred. Of course, the constitution needs to be regarded and respected, but it's silly to attack somebody that seeks to change something about it. The Second Amendment is just that for god sakes: a modification of the original constitution! The Second Amendment was not passed until 1791, four years after the constitution was ratified. Why not just keep the original constitution the way it was? Or why replace even replace the Articles of Confederation to begin with? The answer is obviously because governing documents should live and grow with the needs of the society that uses them.

The president and other proponents of gun control are sure to face tough resistance, but hopefully the passage of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE Act) on Jan. 15, which bears many similarities to the president's proposal, is an indication that people are ready for changes in gun laws. There is absolutely no reason ordinary citizens need to have guns like AR-15 assault rifles. And just to be clear, I am not opposed to citizens being able to own and keep guns in their homes or even against allowing people to have concealed to carry licenses in some cases.

Freedom does not necessarily come from the lack of regulation. Rather, the proper legislation and overarching governmental framework is what creates an environment that enables us to live in safety and carry on as freely as possible.

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