Gun control has been a serious political debate for several decades. After James Eagan Holmes killed 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012, the debate took on a new force which reached its full force after the Sandy Hook Elementary school tragedy in December. The shocking events of that day inspired many to call for debate and led President Obama to encourage stricter background checks, a ban on semiautomatic rifles, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Immediately, this announcement led to mixed feedback among Americans and Villanova students. When asked, it seems that most students were unwilling to give a broad opinion on gun control. Instead, they focused on one specific aspect of new legislation or the debate in general.
Like all components of the proposed gun control legislation, the requirement for background checks drew mixed responses.
“Background checks are a blatant violation of the Second Amendment,” said Villanova freshman Ally Logan.
Those in agreement with Logan seem to believe that prohibiting certain people from obtaining guns based on criminal action or mental illness ensures that the Bill of Rights no longer secures the freedom of all people. Ultimately, they argue, it would create a loophole in the Constitution that could be used to further infringe the rights of the American people. Therefore, background checks should not be implemented for the purchase of guns. Other Villanova students, however, disagree with this position.
“Background checks must be done 100 percent of the time,” said sophomore Khary Anderson.
This sentiment characterizes the popular opinion which holds that those who are known to be dangerous because of a mental condition or past behavior should not be granted easy access to violent weapons. Noting the fact that Holmes and Lanza are both believed to have been suffering from severe mental illness, it is worth considering whether these shootings could have been prevented with stricter background checks and regulations. Background checks may also serve to reign in Internet and non-retail sale of guns. This area, which includes gun shows, is extremely unregulated
The second two components of President Obama’s legislation concerning rifles and magazines, while the source of greater controversy in Washington, does less so among Villanova students. Whereas several Republican leaders employ Second Amendment rights to justify usage of such rifles, even students who are opposed to gun control became reticent when asked about assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Ultimately, students either remained silent on the issue or argued that these weapons should be banned from commercial or recreational use.
Perhaps surprisingly, several people had a lot to say about the debate in general. According to Dr. Mary Hirschfeld, a professor of humanities at Villanova, the two sides both seem somewhat useless. According to Dr. Hirschfeld, there is little to no evidence that the proposed gun control measures would have prevented any of the recent tragedies and thus are rather irrelevant. On the other hand, she also said that she does not understand why the Second Amendment is valued so strongly and why it is necessary that guns be accessible.
A Villanova Freshman approached the debate from a more emotional stance.
“I find it concerning that something as serious as gun control would only become an issue once a tragedy happens,” he said.
While he recognized that something as serious as guns needs to be discussed seriously and, in his opinion, regulated, he does not believe it should be done under “the judgment cloud that is our emotions from something tragic.”
Overall, there are clearly several issues at stake in the debate over gun control. While everyone seems to agree that it is a problem worth discussing seriously and unemotionally, many are still too heavily affected by recent dilemmas to comfortably argue an overall stance on gun control.
By MAGGIE LAMB ’16