INTERIM EDITOR IN CHIEF
Largely led by student-survivor activists of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida last month, the push for gun control reform continues to dominate news headlines recently and is prompting renewed debate about Second Amendment issues in the United States.
In response to the shooting that left 17 dead, President Trump announced on Feb. 22 that educators should carry weapons as a precautionary measure. Gun control is an issue which has long been hotly debated both in politics and by the general public. While the right to bear arms is a part of the Second Amendment, political science professor Juan Huerta said just like other amendments to the C, the Second Amendment has its limitations.
“Rights are not absolute,” Huerta said. “So, what can be done to protect people but where sportsmen can have access to their rifles and shotguns and pistols at home? At the same time, we want to have some reasonable sense of safety when we come to the university or any other public place that there aren’t people out there with assault weapons to open fire on us. We have a right to safety also.”
According to the Cato Institute, the FBI reported that schools have been the second-highest risk location for mass shootings, with the largest number of active shooting incidents from 2000 to 2016 occurring in workplaces and other commercial buildings. At Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, the university does have a concealed carry law for licensed individuals that are at least 21 years of age.
“If you look statistically at other nations, they don’t have mass shootings,” Huerta said. “And so, the question is, what’s different about the United States? Well, we have a lot more firearms than other nations. They don’t have mass shootings. It’s a lot harder if you have a baseball bat or a knife compared to an assault weapon.”
Huerta said speaking from a logical standpoint, having educators carry guns would not fix the mass shooting issue the country continues to face.
“I don’t think we want to add to the job description of faculty members if you are willing to shoot someone in class,” Huerta said. “I don’t think that’s a very realistic and practical solution to trying to deal with a mass shooter on campus.”
Junior special education major Elizabeth Ambriz was one of the various students at the Island who was upset over the Florida shooting and President Trump’s suggestion, speaking from an educational standpoint.
“It’s sad because I’m in the education field,” Ambriz said. “To think every morning and the possibility of me having to jump in front of students from a shooting or having to protect my students from a shooter, it scares me.”
Ambriz said she wouldn’t feel comfortable having a gun in her classroom, especially with the field that she is wanting to get into because if one of her students managed to obtain the gun, they could harm themselves or others. However, Ambriz also raised points about safety within public locations and how she didn’t feel comfortable with the concealed carry on campus and not being able to protect herself.
“No weapon is safe on campus,” Ambriz said. “One of the big reasons I think they allow this is because the university is a public place. But why add on to the problem?”
Aside from students at the university, Ambriz said there is the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) that needs to be taken into consideration. Children from Pre-K through sixth grade attend school at the university who would be put in danger if there ever was a mass shooting on campus.
Huerta said there were also risks about carrying guns on campus.
“One thing I’ve heard is many law enforcement officials testified against the concealed carry bill when it was being forth from Texas legislature,” Huerta said. “The concern was well, when law enforcement comes in and they see someone with a gun, how are they supposed to know who the shooter is? And there you are waving around a gun, well they may think you’re the shooter.”
Ambriz stated she was neither pro or anti-gun and said ultimately there needs to be more regulations set for these laws.
“We’re in Texas, I get it,” Ambriz said. “But if you’re going to allow a gun in the home, once you reach a certain age, they need to be educated. It’s easy to kill someone with a car, just how easy it is to kill with a gun. If we go through all of this process just to get a license for a car, it should be the same for guns. The gun isn’t the problem, it’s who has the gun.”
Aside from regulations and an increased amount of safety, Ambriz said she believes schools should have talks with families and their students.
With the topic of gun control in general, Huerta said the way the Second Amendment was written doesn’t give the United States a clear idea on where they should stand.
“While the Supreme Court has made rulings about having a pistol at home, or a rifle for hunting, it’s not clear from their ruling that there’s nothing that prevents government from regulating assault weapons or access to guns,” Huerta said. “So, folks will say well let’s have some regulations. Then there’s other groups out there who say the Second Amendment is an absolute right and it protects all of these things and we can’t do that.”
According to Time, membership in gun organizations, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), have increased since the Florida shooting.
“As soon as anti-gun attacks started coming in on Twitter, Facebook, and in the media, we began to hear from people who didn’t even own guns who wanted to join up or contribute out of solidarity in defense of the Second Amendment to the Constitution,” said Patrick Parsons, who heads the Georgia Gun Owners, an independent gun rights organization in Georgia.
Don Turner, the President of the Nevada Firearms Coalition and NRA member, estimated membership renewals and requests had increased by 20 percent at his organization since Parkland, although this is an increase he said he did not witness after the shooting in Las Vegas.
“Gun owners themselves weren’t being demonized [after Las Vegas],” Turner said. “But after the Florida shooting, there was a definite push to demonize honest gun owners and to demonize the NRA. And I think that’s what’s provoked their response.”
“Wake up people and see what’s happening,” Charles Cotton, a member of the NRA Board of Directors, wrote on a message board, TexasCHLforum.com, a site described as “the focal point for Texas firearms information and discussions, earlier this week. “[Former New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg and Hollywood are pouring money into this effort and the media is helping to the fullest extent. We’ve never had this level of opposition before, not ever. It’s a campaign of lies and distortion, but it’s very well funded and they are playing on the sympathy factor of kids getting killed. If you really want to make a difference, then start recruiting NRA members every single day.”
As far as media coverage, Ambriz said she believes mass shootings have always been an issue but because of how bad it’s become, the issue has been getting covered more. However, she believes people aren’t focusing on the issue as much as they should.
“Americans don’t have a lot of sympathy,” Ambriz said. “Something happens, and we feel bad but then we move on because we weren’t directly affected. I think from an outsider, we do move fast from it. Overall, we do need to focus on it more.” (See Nicole Shair’s opinion piece on page two for more on this perspective.)
Huerta said when events like the Florida shooting occurs, he does bring up the issue in his class. He said he asks his students about it and senses their frustration. However, Huerta agreed with Ambriz that nothing ever gets done about it and eventually we as Americans forget about the issue until another shooting occurs.
According to USA Today, Dick’s Sporting Goods has banned all sales of assault-style weapons due to the Parkland, Florida shooting. Aside from this, the retailer will also end sales of high-capacity magazines and sales of guns to people under 21 years old. Ambriz said she was pleased to learn about this news and said it’s a mark of progress.
Huerta said he was impressed with the way teenagers in Florida are really mobilizing because of this event, and if public opinion is really shifting and people are wanting to change gun laws, it could be possible.
“The goal of an elected official is to get re-elected,” Huerta said. So, if they start seeing the public opinion has changed, that can lead to it. It’s happened in the past when laws have been passed. There was an assault weapon [bill] passed in the 1990s. It expired, and it wasn’t a permanent one, but there was one passed when Bill Clinton was president. If it becomes a political issue in the upcoming elections, and if they get elected, they can pass legislation for it.”
That seems to be the goal of the student activists who are leading the charge for gun control reform. According to Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER group’s Twitter feed, a national school walk out is planned for March 14. Organizers are encouraging teachers, students, administrators, parents and allies to walk out for 17 minutes — one for every person killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In addition, students from Stoneman Douglas are organizing the “March for Our Lives” protest that will be held in Washington, D.C. on March 24 to call for school safety and gun control.