Second amendment drives national discussion


During a moment of silence for victims of gun violence, two students shouted their support of the Second Amendment. Following the walkout, a group of students confronted the pair. Photo by Maya Bell.

Multiple Authors

Reporting by Katie Whaley, Atiyah Lane, Nikol Slatinska, Rochita Ghosh
In Australia, the most exposure junior Gemma Ross had to firearms was knowing that her aunts and uncles, who were police officers, owned a few. Besides that, for her first 10 years of life, Ross wasn’t aware that guns had much prevalence in everyday life. When she moved to the United States, however, firearms became a prevailing fear as a notorious American stereotype, a worrisome mother and an overactive imagination blended to create an unrealistic horror: if their family dared to stop the car, they would get shot.
To an American homegrown on the revered Second Amendment, Ross’ fear may seem exaggerated, but for Australians, this thought process was not uncommon, as the nation created stronger gun regulations more than two decades ago after a deadly massacre.
On April 28, 1996, a man armed with a semiautomatic rifle shot and killed 35 people in a popular tourist area around Port Arthur in Tasmania, Australia. Twelve days later, the newly elected Prime Minister, John Howard, announced a new nationwide gun reform, implementing two federally funded gun buybacks. Additionally, the Australian Library of Congress reported that all three levels of government federal, state and territory agreed to the new gun regulations, including a ban on certain semiautomatic and self-loading rifles and shotguns, standard licensing and permit criteria, as well as, greater restrictions on the sales of firearms.

After the Australia gun law passed, the number of guns in private hands reduced to 20 percent. In the United States, 47 percent of people say they or someone in their household owns a gun.

The Australian government also implemented a “buyback,” where Australians sold more than 640,000 prohibited firearms to the government. To own firearms now, TIME reported Australians have to have a “genuine reason” for owning a gun, which they can prove by joining a target shooting or hunting club. People must also register all their weapons whenever they purchase them, take firearm safety courses and go through background checks that get more in-depth depending on the type of gun someone buys. The government also requires that police officers inspect any weapons or gun rooms Australians have.
“The massacre that happened in Australia.. . . was one of the biggest ones in Australian history, but it was not near as big as the ones that happened in the United States. It was still people dying, but it was definitely not as big as the ones in America,” Ross said. “Here, [they occur] all the time, and they’re huge. They’re everywhere. It was never an ongoing thing [in Australia]. It was never written in our government by any means. It was never written down. It was never something people followed like here.”
CNN reported since the change in gun regulations, there have been no mass shootings in Australia.
According to the Mass Shooting Tracker, a database which records shootings in the United States, there were more than 427 mass shootings in the United States in 2017 alone. The response from Americans to these shootings differs from that of the Australians, as the government has not taken series political action for stronger gun regulations. This is because, unlike in Australia, the United States views gun ownership as a right every citizen has, shown by the Second Amendment; “…The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The credibility of the Second Amendment became a heated debate in the United States. There’s a divide between those who believe the Second Amendment should stay how it is and others who say gun laws need to become stricter, Gallup reported. To get a consensus for how Americans felt on this issue, Gallup created a survey and asked people if they were satisfied or dissatisfied with the nation’s gun laws. Thirty-nine percent of people were totally satisfied with current gun laws. Forty-six percent of people were dissatisfied, wanting stricter laws, while eight percent were dissatisfied with current laws, wanting less strict laws. Two percent had no opinion.
Ross said she has friends who own guns and like to hunt for sport, so she knows the Second Amendment holds meaning to many Americans.
“My view on guns is because the Second Amendment is in place. I’m pro guns, but it’s probably because more so I don’t believe that, in America, you could get rid of [guns] or that it would be effective [if you did],” Ross said. “It’d probably be worse [to get rid of guns] because it’s been such a long time that the Second Amendment has been important to this country. It’s not worth trying to get rid of, like it’s one of the things this country was built on. I think it’s a good thing for people here.”
[quote]It’s not worth trying to get rid of, like it’s one of the things this country was built on. I think it’s a good thing for people here.” -Gemma Ross, junior[/quote] The Washington Post reported approximately 51 percent of Americans feel like guns make their house a safer place rather than a dangerous one. Although people feel more secure with firearms, if fallen into the wrong hands, they can bring horrific consequences. Last year’s traumatic massacres such as the mass shootings in Las Vegas and at Pulse nightclub in Orlando brought the issue of gun violence to the forefront, further driving the debate on the significance of the Second Amendment.
For Dave Workman, the senior editor of and member of the Second Amendment Foundation, the debate means educating people about what is true about the U.S.’s gun laws and what isn’t. For instance, Workman said many people who want more gun control in America argue that there should be more background checks on people when they purchase a firearm. Workman said there are laws, one being the Brady Bill, in place that require retail stores to do background checks on individuals who are buying guns, one being the Brady Bill.
“Since 1934, when Congress passed the Federal Firearms Act, it’s been very restrictive for people to own fully automatic firearms. You have to go through a background check; you have to pay a tax, a fee to have a machine gun. That’s not in every state because not every state allows machine guns. As far as semi-automatic firearms, the way that the law is currently written is fine. Since the Gun Control Act of 1968, it’s been legal for people ages 18, 19 and 20 to purchase rifles and shotguns,” Workman said. “The law has worked, and unfortunately there have been some people who have abused the Second Amendment and have violated multiple state and federal laws when they commit mass shootings and murders. For example, bringing a gun onto a school campus is against the law. Violating a gun-free school zone act is against the law. There are all kinds of laws in place already that are violated by anybody who does a mass shooting.”
Under Missouri gun laws, it is not mandatory to have a state permit to purchase handguns or long guns, reported It is also not required for individuals to have a license of ownership or register his or her firearms.

Senior Olivia Kady holds a sign with the names of victims of gun violence. It reads “Never again. Never forget.” Photo by Maya Bell.
On the other side, there are people who believe there should be a stronger crackdown on the gun violence issue. Andrew Patrick, the media director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), said the organization is working toward pushing lawmakers to create stricter gun laws, as the group believes the protection of citizens outweighs firearm ownership. CSGV also wants to inform citizens on the intentions of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun lobbyists.
“The Second Amendment is a part of the Constitution, obviously. It’s there, and it’s ingrained in our society. What has happened over the years by the NRA and other members of the gun lobby is to kind of create this pasteurized version of the Second Amendment that says people can walk around with assault rifles, that people can take guns into restaurants and [have in] everyday society, when the Supreme Court decided in the [Columbia v.] Heller decision 10 years ago that people do have a right to bear arms and protect themselves in their homes and to hunt,” Patrick said. “But, like all rights, the Second Amendment is not unlimited and, as we’ve seen in multiple court cases since then that have refused to take up challenges to [create] gun violence prevention laws. Laws that have been passed by the states, there is a limit on the Second Amendment like there is all rights, and that’s something we support. There’s a right to bear arms for many to protect themselves, but there’s also a right to live free of gun violence in our society.”
Students around the nation have begun to believe the same ideals Patrick mentioned about ending gun violence, shown through the nationwide walkouts taking place across school campuses March 14. The walkouts were first created in order to honor the 17 students who were killed in a school shooting at Marjory Douglass Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, however, they eventually became a movement for stricter gun control.
Freshman Samaranjay Goyal sees both sides of the gun control issue, as he can see both how flawed gun laws are and how significant a gun can be to someone who uses it for security. When it comes to the Second Amendment, he wishes there would be changes to it, though, he doesn’t wish for a nationwide ban of handguns and rifles. He wishes those changes would have been made before the Parkland shooting, as there had been many mass shootings involving schools before.
“The constitutional aspect of [the Second Amendment] was that the founders created it to avoid government tyranny. I think the protection that guns allow was a side benefit of the Second Amendment. But, as for gun restrictions, gun restrictions need to be put in place, even on the Second Amendment,” Goyal said. “I don’t believe in banning all handguns or all assault rifles… because I believe that those guns: one, the ensure protection for households and two, again, to the government tyranny. The whole point of the Second Amendment was to protect you from the government if the government ever became oppressive. So, I think handguns and hunting rifles ensure [protection], and hunting is a sport in America. [The guns] aren’t meant for killing humans; they’re meant for self-defense.”
According to VOX President Trump has took some action on gun control by supporting the Fix NCIS Act which is pushing federal agencies to better report criminal background records. Currently the bill is stalled in Congress. Trump has also directed the attorney general by signing a memo which proposes a regulation that “bans all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.” As well Trump supports raising the minimum age for buying assault weapons from 18 to 21. To come to a compromise over gun control, Workman said the two sides should unify and quit continuing the same pattern over and over again after every shooting.
“[To solve this issue] maybe [we should be] working together to identify a problem and address it that way rather than go out and attempt to penalize a bunch of gun owners,” Workman said. “This always seems to boil down to, ‘Gee whiz, guns are bad; the NRA isn’t good; we need to protest; we need to take guns from people.’ We’ve been down that road before, and it hasn’t really solved anything.”
There has yet to be any official change to the Second Amendment, though students like Goyal see now as the best time to begin advocating for change in the law. Ross, however, can’t imagine there being a change anytime soon.
“In a perfect world, yes [there should be changes to the Second Amendment], of course, guns are dangerous. In a perfect world people would have to meet a lot more requirements than current background checks. [Current background checks] are not efficient at getting bad people away [from purchasing firearms],” Ross said. “But even if you got rid of guns entirely, you’re not going to get rid of bad people getting guns; it’s the lesser of two evils.”