More on the gun debate: social change follows legislative change

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By Charlotte Lehman

In last week’s Concordiensis, two articles were printed regarding Second Amendment rights: one supporting NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new gun control legislation and the other against gun control legislation, instead favoring cultural change in perceptions of violence and mental health.

The articles were two sides of a debate that has been increasing in polarization in the last several decades since the NRA has become more powerful and more politicized.

The Second Amendment does not explicitly provide an individual right to bear arms, but rather, is a living document and vague in its wording so that the interpretation may change if necessary in regards to the times.

In the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court established the precedent that individuals do, in fact, have a right to bear arms. It is this flexible interpretation, however, that has people fighting over what level of regulation is constitutional and at what point the government is treading on Americans’ freedom.

What Curt Myers’s article last week failed to acknowledge is that though certain rights are promised, the government retains the ability to regulate them as is necessary.

His examples of drivers’ licenses and syringes are both good examples not of why guns are treated differently and over-regulated, but rather why guns, along with other potentially dangerous tools such as cars and syringes, should be regulated to ensure that the people using them are well-educated and prepared to do so.

Particularly in the case of guns, where a civilian copy of an assault rifle used in military combat has a very different purpose than that of a protective handgun or pistol, regulation is important to ensuring both the safety and freedom of innocent citizens.

The other article, written by Enza Macherone, supports the new gun control legislation recently signed into law by Cuomo. With an assault weapons ban, closure of the state gun show loophole and the ban of high-capacity magazines, this legislation itself is taking a step in the right direction.

However, Cuomo’s method of passage for this legislation was inexcusable. The legislation was pushed through in only a few days. There were no public hearings. Cuomo waived the constitutionally required three-day waiting period between a piece of legislation’s introduction and the vote.

A concern frequently voiced by those against gun control, and briefly touched upon in Myers’s article last week, is that gun regulation removes freedom from the people and will lead to a tyrannical state.

Though that may be an exaggeration, it is easy to see why someone might fear such a thing after witnessing the way Cuomo passed his gun control legislation.

Part of the right to bear arms is regulating them so that they may be used safely and responsibly. The Second Amendment itself states, “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Social change is often a long-term result of legislative change; after tragedies like recent shootings in Newtown, Conn., Webster, N.Y., and Albuquerque, N.M., it is clear that new gun control and mental health reform legislation—debated and passed in a democratic manner—are necessary to create a safer environment in our country.

And eventually, such legislation will lead to the social changes Myers and I both so adamantly support.

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