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The Other Side of Gun Control

Guest Column
Joshua Faber

Like all heated political issues, the gun control debate is often so clouded in rhetoric that it seems everyone loses touch with the human issues involved in the original argument. Kris Schnee manages somehow to conflate licensing of firearms with an apparent national campaign to eradicate the second amendment [“Licensing the Constitution,” Feb. 18].

I’ll admit, the latter doesn’t seem like an awful idea to me, but even I can admit it is little more than fantasy given the current opinions of the American people, and, more importantly, the legislative and judicial branches of the government, in whose hands these decisions ultimately rest.

The Supreme Court has actually never ruled that the second amendment’s “right to bear arms” clause actually exists independently of the existence of the militia introduced in the first clause. Assuming it were to do so, then there can be no ban on handguns without a constitutional amendment which would have to be passed by the Congress and a three-quarters of the states of the nation. Simply put, if the American people and their elected officials choose to ban handguns, it can be done, but not until then.

It is ironic that the debate over licensing firearms is often backed by second amendment claims. “A well regulated militia...” forms the opening of the second amendment. Certainly, requiring a license for a handgun is a regulation, and is therefore explicitly called for in the amendment itself. People are willing to get licenses for their dogs, and I can say from personal experience that a handgun is considerably more of a public threat than a poodle. Waiting periods and training, as well, are not infringements on the right to bear arms.

Does a driving test really infringe on the right to drive? No, it is merely common sense, since cars can be dangerous without a skilled user. Similarly, gun safety courses seem wise, not only for the public good, but also for the safety of the user.

All this so far is an exercise in legal issues, but there is a human side to the issue as well. On December 14, 1992, when I was a student at Simon’s Rock College in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a student from Montana purchased an SKS-19 assault rifle on a Sunday, and using mail-ordered ammunition laid siege to the school on the following Monday night. Because five days seemed like too long a wait when you just need to have a gun, Nacunan Saez died from a gunshot wound to the head as he drove homeward. Teresa Beavers, a security guard, was shot in the chest, but managed to survive, though her wounds last to this day.

Galen Gibson was shot in the school library. Because some people worry that our big, mean, nasty government will somehow manage to take away their hunting rifles, Galen got to die by choking on his own blood for ten minutes, trying to figure out how, before he hit the age of 20, his life had been taken away from him. I and two other students were far more fortunate -- we all survived our injuries. Yes, I couldn’t walk for a few months, and sure, it’s unpleasant to have more than a foot of scar tissue on my legs, but I guess it was for the greater good, wasn’t it?

If the Brady Bill had been signed into law back then, if some minimal training was required to own a gun, then all of us would have been home for intersession. The school found out about the killer’s plan before he started shooting, but by the time they acted, they were minutes late. With the benefit of a day, just one day, I would have been merely a bystander in this debate. Instead, because of NRA-supporting zealots, I was merely one of the many sacrifices this nation makes for its freedoms.

Joshua Faber is a graduate student in the Department of Physics.