Gun control

February 3, 2011

by Haley Kraemer, COPY EDITOR

After the Arizona tragedy early last month, gun control has become the focus on which the media has turned its lens.

Jared Loughner’s shooting spree in Tucson Jan. 8 opened a case of arguments for gun activists, pacifists and the media alike, which, according to The Week magazine, is most likely what he was looking for. 

According to the FBI database, gun usage in violent crimes has seen a decrease in numbers. When in 2006 guns were used 63 percent of the time in robberies and 64 % of the time in aggravated assault, 2009 studies have shown that gun-armed robberies have decreased by 20 percent and by 40 percent in aggravated assault.

However, decreased gun violence does not decrease awareness of issues involving gun control. In fact, over the years, public opinion on gun control has remained at a plateau in spite of the decrease on gun violence, said Jason Pigg, department head and associate professor of political science.

He said the media portrays that the majority of Americans want stricter gun laws, but statistics show no change in public opinion regarding stricter gun laws.

“Even though you hear stories that this may lead to more gun control, when you look at the numbers [on public opinion], they are not there,” he said. “[Opinion] is pretty much the same as it was a year ago.”

Pigg said regardless of public opinion, the studies on guns show evidence that gunas are a problem. 

“When you look at households that own guns, there is more gun-related death and violence in those households because of misuse of those weapons,” he said. “So, I think there has been extremely effective lobbying from the National Rifle Association that really shapes the debate that we have in the United States.”

Recent news articles show examples of shootings which led to changes in the schools’ gun policies.

A FOX News article stated that Nebraska Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial, Neb., introduced a bill that would allow school administrators, teachers and security staff to carry concealed handguns in schools following an incident where a 17-year-old killed his vice principal and shot his principal before turning the weapon on himself.

The Week magazine’s article, “Guns: Would tougher laws have prevented a massacre?” sparks a debate among editorialists, columnists and the American people about the gun control issue. 

According to the magazine article, “Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post remarked Loughner was able to buy that ‘sleek, efficient killing machine’ only because of ‘our nation’s insane refusal to impose reasonable controls on guns.'”

The Week quoted Erich Pratt in a USA Today magazine article seeing the issue in a different light.

Pratt said gun-control laws only protect those honest citizens who obey them, and they are at the mercy of those who do not.

“No amount of gun control will stop people like Loughner getting guns,” Pratt said. 

She believes a more effective response is to pack guns, so when the next disturbed person begins to open fire, a citizen has the tool to stop him. This presents another problem for universities.

Tech Police Chief Randal Hermes said firearms have not been a problem on Tech’s campus. 

He said it is not a crime to have a gun on campus, but it is a violation of a school rule as listed below. Certain measures will be taken if someone is found with a firearm anywhere on campus.

According to the Tech Student Handbook, “6.04:20 Possession and/or Use of Guns, Firearms, Knives, Explosives and Other Weapons- Possession of and /or exploding of fireworks and other explosives is prohibited.”

The student handbook also states that those found guilty of on-campus violations that violate the university behavioral standards “are subjected only to censures imposed by the University authority.”

“You can lawfully drive through campus with a gun in your car because you can lawfully have a gun in your car,” Hermes said. 

Possession of a gun in your vehicle is perfectly legal in Louisiana as the vehicle is seen as an extension of your home, according to Louisiana state firearm laws.

Hermes said it does not seem like the right environment to have weapons at a school.

“If you knew your teacher had a gun, and you wanted to go shoot up the class. Who’s the first person you are going to shoot at?” he said. “You’re going to shoot at the person who has the gun. Honestly when you look at these school shootings, in a lot of cases, it is the grown-ups that are the first ones [shooters] seem to target.”

Hermes also said carrying a concealed weapon sometimes allows someone to have an unreasonable sense of bravado.

“They may put themselves in a situation or not retreat in a certain situation that they should,” he said. “They stand their ground and become over-confident. They unintentionally expose themselves to these situations.”

Pigg said the U.S. Constitution is shady on how to deal with gun control, which leads to what is now being seen in national news.

“I think the U.S. is pretty distinctive in having so few gun-control laws. We definitely have a different culture than many other countries do,” he said. “It is one, especially in the South, that has a very strong attachment to the ownership of weapons and guns. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment stands for an individual’s right to own weapons, but they were pretty careful to point out in their opinion that it doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be restrictions on either the types of weapons sold or the types of people who could own weapons. 

Pigg said he would be worried if Tech professors were coming to school with weapons. 

Though gun control has been a hot topic of discussion in the media lately, the U.S. should keep in mind what Loughner’s possible intentions were in his planning of the massacre as according to the opinion of Bryce Tierney, a friend of Loughner..

“I think the reason he did it was mainly to promote chaos,” Tierney told MotherJones.com. “He wanted the media to freak out about this whole thing. He wanted exactly what’s happening.”

E-mail comments to hek002@latech.edu.