Gun control debate sparked: do policies need re-evaluation?

Samantha Weiss January 31, 2013 0

In light of the recent spike in gun violence in America, the topic of gun control has been on everyone’s mind. The two points of view, limiting weapons or imposing fewer laws on weapons, represent much of the debate. Few people stand in the middle of this issue.
However, the sad truth is that few people actually know the rules and legislation that they are standing for or against. The full set of laws encompasses six pages and explains every aspect of gun ownership and usage, from the definition of a firearm, according to the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act, to preemptions from the laws. To make matters more complicated, each state’s laws differ, allowing their individual governments to decide on the most appropriate course of action, in respect to owning and carrying guns.
“You have to register your gun, they do a background check and if you pass, you get a gun … from my understanding at least,” sophomore Seth Previty said of gun laws in Pennsylvania.
Previty was not the only person to appear unsure of the gun control system in America and Pennsylvania specifically. Every student hesitated when asked what they knew about the current gun control laws, but all had an opinion. Even those who considered themselves well-versed in the ordinances couldn’t explain most of the laws when asked.
First-year John Fuiman stood on the side of changing the rules and claimed that the laws that made sense when the Constitution was written should be reexamined and altered in response to the changing world.
 In direct opposition, sophomore and gun owner Meghan Donohue said, “I don’t think they should change the policy because of [the supposed increase in gun violence]. I think the real problem is that so many people are unprotected; the government shouldn’t be making it harder for people to get guns.”  
The most commonly debated laws in Pennsylvania revolve around who can attain weapons permits and what weapons must be registered, as many are exempt from such laws.
In layman’s terms, there are six groups of people who cannot purchase, carry or transport weapons within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and eight defined situations when a license is unnecessary. They are persons convicted of violent crimes, fugitives from the law, persons deemed by a medical practitioner to be mentally incompetent, illegal aliens, persons subject to PFAs and anyone under 18 years of age.
“I do think that restricting automatic weapons and big clips makes sense,” Dr. John Teske, Elizabethtown College professor of psychology, said.
All are reasonable enough, but the “loopholes” are what make these laws so controversial. Some of these loopholes include the fact that no license is required for the possession of rifles or shotguns.
“A lot of the loopholes should be closed, like those that allow gun collectors at gun shows to sell guns extremely easily when they don’t have the manpower or equipment to do background checks,” first-year Omar Zabala said.
The NRA defines eight acceptable situations in which carrying an unlicensed weapon is acceptable: carrying a handgun in one’s home or personal business, when engaged in target shooting or while going to or from a like event, if one is law enforcement, if the weapon in unloaded and secured, while lawfully hunting (with a hunting license) or while carrying a lawfully attained and licensed weapon belonging to oneself or one’s spouse from another state in a vehicle. A source of debate is that an individual has six months to renew a gun permit and may use it during that time.
“The current system basically gives people a free reign to have any gun for any purpose and that is slightly terrifying to me,” first-year Joe Mastropieri said.
Just one in a long series of violent attacks, the recent Sandy Hook shooting hit close to home for many across the country, including President Obama who cried openly. After this, he set a plan in motion to change the current firearms legislation. While those affected by such heinous crimes have often sided with the President, others find these laws oppressive. Some even ventured to suggest that the pending legislature carried a dictatorial or socialistic feel.
“The purpose of the second amendment is to stop tyranny from happening. If you look at the history, the first thing a dictator or a tyrant will do is take away the guns from the people. That way they have all the power,” Previty said. “They should not touch gun policy, they should not regulate it any harsher. I believe that people should be able to own guns.”
While no changes have been passed through Congress yet, this debate rages on. Whether making weapons harder to access will change the current trend has yet to be seen.
For a complete explanation of gun control laws in Pennsylvania, visit

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