College Republicans: College Republicans' gun view sound

BY GUEST COLUMN | APRIL 24, 2013 5:00 AM

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We are writing in response to an editorial that appeared in your paper on April 15 titled “Second Amendment Week Welcomed but Not Ideas.” Although we are appreciative of The Daily Iowan’s coverage of our events during Second Amendment Week, we are also disappointed — but by no means surprised — by your editorial’s misleading, uniformed, and unintelligent response to the position we presented on the issue of gun control.

In your editorial, you quoted our head, Mary Kate Knorr, who stated, “Any efforts on the part of the government to make it more difficult to obtain firearms is a breach of our Constitutional rights.” The Editorial Board then went on to say “This absolutist stance — the notion that any type of gun-control legislation is a violation of the Second Amendment — is both dangerous and fatally suspect.”

Dangerous? Fatally suspect? What do you mean, exactly?

One can hardly say that by showing our support for an amendment written into our Constitution by the founders of this country we have somehow made the world a more dangerous place.

The amendment states, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” While some argue modern police forces render this amendment unnecessary, nothing could be further from the truth. Just as early American colonists had to use firearms to defend themselves from attacks by hostile powers, so, too, must modern Americans use weapons to defend themselves from criminals and others who wish to do them harm.

When access to firearms becomes restricted, law-abiding citizens (by definition) abide by the government’s mandates. However, those who have no respect for our laws (namely criminals, terrorists, and the mentally ill) actively seek illegal access to these weapons.

Thus, by putting more restrictions on gun ownership, the government is doing nothing more than taking weapons out of the hands of responsible citizens and putting them into the hands of violent and irresponsible individuals, making our society more dangerous, not less.

Additionally, expanded background checks prior to firearm purchases — which you seem to support — would hardly be effective when it comes to keeping weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals. The gun-control measures that have been debated in Congress — and rightly defeated in the Senate — were drafted in response to the recent tragedies in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., and elsewhere.

But we must remember that guns do not kill people — people do, and that these horrific events were caused by mentally disturbed people. It is already illegal for those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness to purchase a firearm.

However, neither of the perpetrators in the aforementioned tragedies had received such a diagnosis, although it is clear that they were mentally ill. This is why we believe that before any further restrictions on gun ownership are debated, the government must make serious efforts to reform our mental-health system.

Our society must devote more resources to the prevention, identification, and treatment of mental illness. By doing so, the background checks that are currently being done would be more effective at identifying those who are mentally ill and barring them from purchasing firearms, thus preventing mentally disturbed individuals from committing horrible acts of violence.

Your presentation of two Supreme Court cases actually further illustrates the lack of effort on the part of the Editorial Board to become informed on this important issue. The cases you mention, United States v. Miller and Caron v. U.S., are neither the most recent nor the most pertinent to the current debate.

First of all, sawed-off shotguns are usually created through modifications made by gun owners. Any change in weapon design made by nonprofessionals is unsafe and rightly illegal, as upheld in the 1958 Miller case.

Second of all, we do not believe that the 1998 Caron decision is an infringement on the right to bear arms. By committing crimes, convicted felons by definition lose many of the rights the rest of us enjoy. Thus, we hold that felons were never entitled to the right to bear arms in the first place.

More recent and relevant Supreme Court decisions, including decisions in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller and the 2010 case McDonald v. Chicago, have held that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home and for hunting and recreation, regardless of local, state or federal laws stating otherwise.

These decisions have made it clear: A law-abiding, mentally stable citizen has the irrevocable right to keep and bear arms, and any further infringement on this right is a violation of our Constitution. In other words, our stance on this issue is exactly right.

We hope that the Editorial Board makes a greater effort to become informed before announcing their opinion on matters of national importance in the future.

Mary Kate Knorr
Quentin Marquez
Megan La Suer
Dennis McWeeny
Executive Board, UI College Republicans

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