One of the issues that Louisianans will decide in next week’s election is whether or not to change the state’s constitutional amendment on the right to bear arms.
The proposal in question is Amendment No. 2. According the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana: “A vote for would require that any laws restricting the right to keep and bear arms be subject to the highest level of judicial review, known as strict scrutiny.” The amendment also assures that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental one in Louisiana. It would also delete a line in the state constitution that gives the legislature the right to pass laws to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons.
On concerns about college students: university policy prohibits carrying a firearm on campus. The thought of college students carrying guns on campus concerns Louisiana Tech police chief Randall Hermes and me. Hermes believes many college students don’t know how to handle their emotions constructively and easy access to guns could create problems.
“There’s a lot of relationship development among college students,” Hermes said. “At the college student age, you are still maturing in your emotions.” He is correct. With as much stress as we college students have, whether from academics, problems with family or friends, or intimate relationships, I think it is wise for us to not carry firearms. A stressed-out, sleep-deprived, caffeine-doped college student with a gun is a disaster waiting to happen. The student can be a threat not only to other people; but to themselves, for instance, should they consider taking their own life because of the stress many endure.
Furthermore, imagine your classmates having a concealed weapon in the classroom, the library or the cafeteria. This is scary. What if a classmate’s gun accidently went off in class? This could happen.
The massacre at Virginia Tech, the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., and the mass bloodbath in Aurora, Colo. – all have drawn attention to the second issue that concerns me and other people: mentally-ill individuals carrying guns. The problem with mentally-ill individuals carrying firearms is that you can’t always tell who is mentally ill just by looking at them. A person can successful complete the training needed to carry a concealed weapon, go to a gun dealer to purchase a firearm; but they may not be mentally stable enough to carry a weapon.
Also, people can be mentally ill and not know it. People can also be mentally ill but refuse to take their medication. Moreover, mental illness can develop or can be diagnosed after the individual gets his or her concealed weapon permit. What exacerbates this issue is that some states aren’t reporting the names of all the people who have mental health problems to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, according to a National Public Radio article by Jeff Brady. Unless states uniformly report their mentally ill citizens to the NICS to bar them from purchasing guns, then the government won’t know who should not have a firearm.
Obviously, this is a tricky issue. On the one hand, there is the constitutional right to bear arms. On the other hand, there is the public’s right to safety. Finding a balance between the two without all mentally ill as dangerous will be difficult (if not impossible). Given this situation, we must consider the ramifications of strengthening or weakening gun laws in relation to personal rights, personal protection and public safety.
Felicia Burse is a senior general studies major with a minor in psychology from Ruston who serves as a contributor for The Tech Talk. Email comments to frb...@latech.edu.