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By Karissa Schmidt

Photos from Tribune News Service, New York Times and Time Magazine.

Gun control remains a contentious issue

President Barack Obama’s gun control executive order about draws mixed opinions from students and staff

February 11, 2016

During one visit, She’s a Pistol instructor Adrian Bliss answers questions from a group of prospective gun owners about a pink hunting rifle. The purchasers appear barely over eighteen, and Bliss informs them that by completing one background check, they could walk out with that rifle the very same day.

Soon, new legislation may complicate this process.

President Barack Obama’s new executive order was announced in early January; it includes comprehensive background checks, mandatory licensing for gun sellers and more funding for mental health.

She’s a Pistol is a locally-owned gun store in Shawnee which sells long guns, handguns, as well as other gun safety products. In light of this legislation, the store has experienced an uptick in customers in the last few weeks.

“We’ve already seen an increase in business. Obama said … he’s going to make it harder for people to get ahold of [guns],” Bliss said. “We’re seeing an increase in business … before this legislation gets passed.”

Junior Tom McClain considers the executive order to be a step in the right direction but one that may not ultimately last.

“Frankly, [the new laws] are not enough and it shouldn’t have to be done this way because that kind of executive action can be undone in the future by his successor,” McClain said. “So, what we really need is some sort of congressional cooperation, but that’s obviously not going to happen.”

GUNS-1While McClain would like to see more done, Bliss finds gun restrictions to be ineffective.

“Taking firearms off the streets is not going to stop the issues,” Bliss said. “Obviously, they can take all the firearms from legal gun owners that they want. Criminals are going to obtain them off the street regardless.”

While junior Dylan Smith sees the positives of gun control, he agrees with Bliss and believes it is not the only solution.

“There are a lot of people who could potentially be a murderer [or] criminal. I think a lot of those people are stopped from getting guns but, no matter what we do there will always be people … who are going to find a way to cause harm to other people.”

GUNS-2According to senior Shelby Hudson, this legislation could have a beneficial effect on society.

“It will … [slow] guns from getting into the wrong hands,” Hudson said. “It’s not always going to stop it, but it’ll slow it.”

Public safety is another positive outcome that could come from this legislation according to social studies teacher Andrew Hudgins.

“I think …  it will allow people to be less fearful in all public settings, let alone the school setting,” Hudgins said. “It’s a scary thought to think that the mass shootings are increasing in number.”

Resource officer Mo Loridon agrees that some action was necessary.

“I think [the new laws] were made as a reaction towards the bad stuff that’s happening with guns,” Loridon said. “We’ve got the mass murders going on and people … not having a hard time getting [guns] and I think it’s just another reaction towards the bad stuff that’s going on.”

Hudgins agrees with Loridon, but believes that Americans have a right to own guns.

“Clearly it needs to be a little bit stricter, but I don’t think anybody is advocating for people’s guns to be taken from them,” Hudgins said. “I don’t think that’s fair to those that own guns, but … we need to try and figure out a way to prohibit guns from getting into the wrong hands.”

The wrong hands could mean people with severe mental health issues, as that can be a factor in gun violence. Reports from the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health suggest that up to 60 percent of perpetrators of mass shootings in the U.S. since 1970 displayed symptoms of acute paranoia, delusions and depression. President Obama’s executive order includes a $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care.

McClain considers mental health to be an important factor in gun legislation   

“The people who would attack a school with firearms are clearly not in a good state of mind, or anyone who would attack civilians for that matter,” McClain said. “Gun control just needs to keep guns out of the hands [of those] who shouldn’t have them.”

The definition of gun control varies from person to person. To McClain, gun control is “the government controlling how much access people have to guns.”

Hudson believes that public perception has changed the connotation of the term.

“When people hear gun control, they hear, ‘Oh, the government’s going to come take my guns away,’ but really, it’s just better background checks,” Hudson said.

To junior Dylan Smith, gun control is a more vague concept.

“Gun control is not necessarily anything specific,” Smith said. “It is just kind of the general name that people have given to all the laws that regard owning and purchasing firearms in America.”

In Kansas, anyone over 18 can buy a long gun, which includes hunting rifles and shotguns, and anyone over 21 can purchase a handgun. Smith expressed interest in owning a gun someday and is in support of background checks.

“There is definitely nothing wrong with background checks. I don’t have a problem with sitting down and going through a background check,” Smith said. “Do I think I should have to go through that every single time I want to buy a gun? Maybe not, but … I don’t think that anyone that wants a gun for lawful purposes would oppose a background check.”

GUNS-3Hudson comes from a gun-owning family and also sees nothing wrong with background checks.

“My father owns guns and he is a law abiding citizen and I don’t think background checks will diminish or stop people who enjoy guns as a hobby and who followed the laws from attaining more guns,” Hudson said. “It’s not taking guns away, it’s just slowing putting guns into other people’s hands that don’t need them.”

Background checks are not currently required in Kansas, however some gun stores still use them. She’s a Pistol requires background checks for all gun purchases. While Bliss finds the current background check process to be sufficient, there are still room for improvements.   

“[The background checks] do run it through quite a bit as it stands, but I think it could be a little more stringent,” Bliss said. “I don’t mind seeing [the] waiting period go into effect again.”

In a survey conducted by the JagWire, 48 percent of students intended to keep a handgun in their house when they are older. 53 percent of the students surveyed said that their family already keeps a non-hunting gun in their home. Regarding current gun laws in America, 39 percent were in favor of stricter gun laws, while 38 percent were fine with how they are now.

Despite the varied responses, Hudson believes this executive order, and gun control in general, will lead to communication between the government and legal gun owners.

“It should just be a mutual respect thing that the government wants to do stuff for the good of the people and [that] is slowing down people who are dangerous from getting their hands on weapons,” Hudson said. “You have that mutual respect for each other and the fact that, ‘Hey, I want to keep my guns and I want to protect you with having guns.’ We just want to make sure that nobody does anything that could have them taken away.”

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