Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Gun control deserves more than inane House bills

President Barack Obama’s public declaration that he may use executive orders to heighten gun tracking on a national level in the wake of the Newtown shooting has received backlash from gun supporters nationwide. The debate has stirred emotions on all points on the political spectrum.

In some cases, the response has been more than rhetorical. Missouri House Bill No. 170, sponsored by State Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Mo., and cosponsored by 62 Republicans in the Missouri House of Representatives, would make it illegal to enforce federal restrictions on semi-automatic firearm ownership within state lines. It would also nullify any legislation or order demanding firearm registration in Missouri. Similar bills have been proposed in Texas, Montana and Wyoming.

Whether House Bill No. 170 will actually pass remains to be seen—it is not currently on the calendar, and it would need to pick up 20 more proponents in the House to pass and move on to the Senate, where a similar bill has already been filed. But with a Republican supermajority in both bodies, House Bill No. 170 is hardly a pipe dream.

The left has largely respected their Republican counterparts’ fixation on gun rights. Even after Sandy Hook, discussion about outlawing guns was virtually nonexistent—Democrats have generally accepted that such legislation will never pass in this country. But countering a Democratic push for firmer gun registration laws and a ban on semi-automatic firearms designed to kill, not defend, with legislation like Missouri House Bill No. 170 is merely counterproductive to a country seeking compromise.

Approximately 91 percent of Americans support universal background checks for gun buyers, and 54 percent agree that ammunition magazines with 10 or more rounds should be banned, according to a Gallup poll taken last week. Americans support stricter gun laws, and cosponsoring legislation like House Bill No. 170 impedes the necessary dialogue on how to address that concern without overstepping either the right or left.

Beyond stalling or effectively shutting down bipartisan dialogue to reach an acceptable legislative response to Sandy Hook, Missouri House Bill No. 170 offers a worrisome alternative to federal gun restrictions. If passed, the bill would make it a felony for police officers to enforce federal gun law—potentially demonizing the people we should look to for protection.

Not only is it currently legal for people in Missouri to purchase a rifle, shotgun or handgun without a permit, but it is legal to bear them without license or registration. A permit is required to carry a handgun but not to carry a rifle or shotgun. If passed, the bill would not affect Wash. U.’s own weapons guidelines. Not surprisingly, Wash. U. prohibits firearms of any kind in its dorms, as well as carrying and concealing firearms on campus. However, the issue of student safety extends beyond campus. Crimes involving guns, including an incident last Thursday in which a student was robbed at gunpoint at 11:15 a.m. in an area where many undergraduates live, certainly affect Wash. U. students. Laxer gun laws—even in the name of the Second Amendment—do not just affect law-abiding citizens.

The key is compromise and understanding. If liberals are expected to respect the desire to own firearms—whether for hunting or for personal safety—conservatives should in turn respect the fact that many people on the left lose sleep over the knowledge that their neighbors may legally possess fully automatic firearms under current state law. Possible unconstitutionality aside, Missouri House Bill No. 170 offers exactly the opposite of what the gun control debate could use—a pirouetting attempt to find a middle-ground solution or at least consider one in line with national public opinion.

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  • NumbersMeanSomething says:

    Who loses sleep over the possibility that their neighbor legally owns a fully automatic firearm? Legal fully automatic firearms are difficult to come by, extraordinarily expensive, and they have only been used to commit violent crimes twice since 1934, one of which being a crime committed by a police officer. This means that each year, a legal fully automatic firearm has a 0.00001054% chance of being used in a violent crime. (2 violent crimes divided by 79 year span, divided by 240,000 in circulation)

    If you want to be scared of something, be scared that the driver next to you might be intoxicated. You are far more likely to be harmed by a drunk driver than a man with a gun, and even more likely to be harmed by a drunk driver than a man with a legally obtained gun.

    Pro-gun, pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage, pro-not-letting-everything-be -decided-by-party-lines student checking in

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    • anonymous says:

      Indeed, handguns are the real problem. They are relatively cheap and easy to conceal and corresponding account for the vast majority of gun crime.

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  • Rob B. says:

    Republicans’ “fixation on gun rights”? It might help if you read the Fedearalist Papers and the writings of our founding fathers addressing the need for the people to be armed. The Second Amendment is not about hunting or sport shooting…it is about the right of the peopel to protect themselves from their government. Unless you understand this fundamental issue, you will fall prey to the government that tells you it will protect your “legitimate hunting rights”. Finally, let’s understand that EVERY firearm is designed to kill. I often hear “pro-choice” people say “If you don’t like abortions, don’t have one-but don’t impose your views on me”. Well, if you don’t like guns, don’t buy one…and don’t try to impose your views on me.

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    • Hm. says:

      No. The text of the second amendment reads “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.” In other words, people are allowed to own guns to serve in a militia that is run by their state governments (ie, not protecting themselves from the government, but serving it).

      Now, the Supreme Court has ruled many times on the second amendment, and how you don’t actually have to be a member of a well-regulated state militia to own a gun, and so on, but the idea that the second amendment is about people protecting themselves from the government is absurd.

      That’s not to say that owning guns to defend oneself against the government is not a legitimate choice, just that it’s not in the Constitution.

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      • Steve Steve says:

        Wow… You must be young and naive to not see the threat the US Government poses to all of us everyday. The Founding Fathers of this country knew how oppressive governments can be, and accounted for that in the Second Ammendment. “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” DOES NOT just apply to militias, but to the citizens who may be called upon to assemble as a militia. The amendment allows for the possibility that the citizens can form militias at any time in an effort to protect the Constitution at a moments notice from tyrannical Governments, be it a foreign government, or even our own government. As you mature, hopefully your outlook will change. Just remember that when the stuff does hit the fan, there will be people out there who will protect even you and your ideals and beliefs. That is one of the cool things about this country!

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    • honda says:

      The difference is that your abortion won’t affect me, but your gun sure can.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878