Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Sandy Hook are only some of the many places that have experienced a mass shooting and have seen firsthand what the damage of a firearm can do.
Events like these have opened up a debate about gun control and what needs to happen to keep the general public safe. The debate is between those who feel there should be limits on the use of firearms and those who feel this is the first step toward firearms being eliminated.
“Hitler’s Nazi regime started with background checks regarding guns, and it led to citizens being completely defenseless,” explained senior Joshua Weitzel, 22, a political science major and president of the Rock the 2nd Amendment Club.
According to Weitzel, the right to bear arms is a constitutional right that’s not about hunting, but about being able to defend oneself. Recently, there has been a law change that allows students who have a firearm permit to conceal and carry in an open space on campus, Weitzel said, but not in any on-campus buildings.
“Students should be allowed to carry and defend themselves, especially in dorms, which is considered a student’s home on campus,” Weitzel said.
Weitzel further explained that his goal for the Rock the 2nd Amendment organization is to hopefully repeal the weapons policy on campus and be allowed to carry on campus and in the buildings. He wants campus to also understand that his organization is not a radical group focused on giving everyone guns, but wants to allow gun owners to carry their firearms in order for them to feel safe.
“Slippery Rock is a public university and should uphold the Second Amendment, allowing students to bear arms,” Weitzel explained.
Another group on campus whose hobby involves firearms is the Hunting and Fishing club.
“I was taught around the age of nine to fire a gun and started hunting at 12,” explained senior Thomas Wilson, 24, a parks and recreation: resource management major and Hunting and Fishing Club president.
According to Wilson, he grew up around guns, and hunting was a family pastime. He explained that when he was young, his father taught him to never point a weapon at anyone, keep the safety on when the firearm is not in use, and to keep a finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
“I believe in moderate gun control,” explained Wilson. He believes that criminal background checks are needed when firearms are purchased, but serial numbers don’t need to be recorded by the government. Being an avid hunter, Wilson believes firearm control or limitations shouldn’t affect his hobby or the organization, unless the laws are drastically changed.
“As of now, we can’t own semi-automatic weapons or automatics to hunt, we use shotguns, bolt action rifles, and revolvers,” he said. According to Wilson, all of the firearms used are legal in Pa. while hunting.
Senior, Bernard Moore, 21, a criminal justice major and also a member of the Hunting and Fishing Club on campus, explains that gun control is about being a responsible owner.
“I agree with responsible gun ownership, but I believe that there are guns that citizens should not have access to,” Moore said.
Another aspect that Moore doesn’t agree with is the name, “gun control.” According to Moore, the phrase gives a negative connotation and the program is more geared towards responsible gun ownership. Some of the limits that he feels should be enacted with gun control include not allowing civilians to purchase assault style rifles and machine guns. He also believes there should be a 15-round limit that can be purchased at one time.
“I think that people will continue to view it in a negative way because they will not sit down and actually read the legislation,” Moore said.
According to the National Conference of State Legislature website, one aspect of President Obama’s gun control proposals include background checks during all gun sales. Checks would include looking at a person’s medical background to see if they have a history of mental illness. Another aspect of the proposal includes banning all military-style weapons and limiting the ammunition to only 10 rounds sold at a time.
President Obama’s gun-control proposals includes launching a nation wide gun safety campaign to encourage responsible gun ownership and authorizes the Consumer Product Safety Commission to examine issues relating to gun safety, according to the website.
“I’m not against guns, but I think there are limits that need to be made,” explained associate professor of political science, Dr. Heather Frederick.
“The Second Amendment needs limits just like the First and Fourth Amendments have limits on them,” Frederick further explained.
According to Frederick, the First Amendment allows for freedom of speech and press, but it limits people from publishing libel.
She feels that some of the limits to the Second Amendment should include waiting periods and background checks that include physiological checks along with checks to see if someone has a history of spousal abuse.
“It is pure rhetoric that having gun control means that all the guns are going to be taken away,” Frederick explained. She explained that she thinks that those who choose to should have access to guns, but she also believes that it is important to learn how to safely fire a gun.
With regard to the new law about being able to carrying firearms on campus, Dr. Frederick said she hopes she never has to worry about firearms being in her class. She believes that, in the end, it would make other students and her uncomfortable.
“You need maturity to handle a gun and many college students do not have that kind of maturity,” Frederick added.
She also feels that many gun owners should want to have some sort of gun control, so that the rights as a whole are not threatened by those who are irresponsible with firearms or purchase one illegally.
“It can be scary if there are no limits on someone who is not responsible with a firearm,” she said.
In the end, Frederick believes everyone should respect weapons and also respect that it is not always appropriate for everyone to have guns. That is why limits on the Second Amendment are needed.
“All rights require a balance between the rights of the individual and for the good of society,” Frederick said.
Gun control is a prominent issue on Slippery Rock’s campus, especially with the formation of the new Rock the 2nd Amendment Club and the Hunting and Fishing Club, which is one of the largest organizations on campus, according to Wilson.
Read the next issue of the Rocket for part 3 of the Gun Series, which will cover campus response to gun related emergencies.