Gun rights become a major issue during election

Mass shootings raise questions about gun rights and restrictions

RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. A resident of Kingsport poses with one of his rifles. The right to bear
arms has become a major controversy. Many people believe gun ownership is an essential
freedom, while others feel that there should be more restrictions on who can own guns.

Molly Turner

RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. A resident of Kingsport poses with one of his rifles. The right to bear arms has become a major controversy. Many people believe gun ownership is an essential freedom, while others feel that there should be more restrictions on who can own guns.

Harrison Barnes, Co-Editor in Chief

The 2nd amendment of the United States Constitution states that “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”. This right, however, has recently become a major controversy.

According to the Mass Shooting Tracker, there were a total of 372 mass shootings just in the U.S. last year, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870. People in the United States now argue over who should own a gun. Should there be limits if a person is mentally ill? What about if they have a criminal record?

Many people in the U.S. like to own guns because they use them for home protection. These people feel that they are at risk of their home being invaded. U.S. citizens also like to own guns so they can go hunt for sport.

Brad Conkin, John Sevier’s school resource officer, believes all people should be able to own a gun.

“The people of America should always have this right, to own and carry a gun,” Conkin said. “Rules and rights are only for rule followers. I feel that people who respect this privilege and follow the rules are the people that we want to have carrying guns. No matter what we try to implement, we will never be able to keep guns out of the hands they do not need to be in.”

Hunter DeBlackmere, an 8th grade student at John Sevier Middle School, believes the U.S. needs gun control.

“I think we need to control who has access to weapons and what types of weapons, since no one needs a gun that shoots 100 bullets a minute,” DeBlackmere said.

Bryan Reyes, a 7th grade student at John Sevier, generally agrees.

“It’s a good idea until it gets out of hand,” Reyes said.

Although gun control has been an issue for many years, the current argument arose back in 2012, when a shooter killed 20 children at an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut.  The result was that several people began to fight for tighter gun control.

In 2013, the Senate decided not to pass any sort of semi-automatic gun ban or even more extensive background checks. It was only in January 2016 that President Obama was able to add stricter background checks using executive action.

“Gun control is something I think will always be a topic on the forefront, but I feel it will never go anywhere,” Conkin said. “There are so many guns, both legal and illegal, that America could never account for all of them.”

There was a recorded amount of 64 school shootings in 2015, mostly by automatic weapons, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker.

Conkin feels that Sevier Middle is still a safe place.

“Sevier is very safe and that goes for Kingsport City Schools as a whole”, he said. “There is always evil lurking around, looking for a weak spot, but with Kingsport City Schools, the Kingsport Police Department and this great town, we can continue to keep evil at bay and live our lives.”

Justin Wershiner, a 6th grade student, agrees.

“We’re fine because we have lockdowns, and as long as we’re quiet we should be fine,”

One of the most common arguments in favor of gun ownership is that it helps protect families from lethal burglaries and home invasions. According to the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, however, there are hardly any lethal home invasions; about 100 a year. The University of Chicago’s Crime Lab also has found that having guns in the house actually increases the chance of homicide and suicide; about 18,000 deaths per year.

Zea Huntley, a 7th grade student at Sevier, believes people should use guns to protect their homes.

“It’s a great way in case a burglar breaks into a house,” Huntley said.

DeBlackmere disagrees. He believes having a gun in the house is bad.

“You are more exposed to weapons and the capability to take someone’s life,” DeBlackmere said.

The main reason that many people fight against gun control is because they feel that guns are their birthright.

Conkin thinks the government should never pass a gun control bill.

“My biggest fear would be that they do one day get a bill passed and guns are restricted from law abiding citizens,” he said. “This one would hurt law enforcement, because the people we want to have guns in the community would do what they are told, and criminals would be at an advantage because they would not abide by the regulations. Often, people need to protect themselves and police can’t be everywhere.”

There are already some gun control laws in the U.S. currently. Gun owners are required to have a concealed firearms permit to carry a concealed weapon. There are also background checks when somebody buys a gun from a gun shop. Certain guns are not allowed at all, like certain assault weapons.

Rhiannon Puckett, a 7th grade student at Sevier Middle, at least partially agrees with some of these regulations.

“I see it as a human right to own a gun, but your past should affect what type of gun you can own,” Puckett said.

Finding a way to stop gun violence is difficult, in part because of the Dickey Amendment. The Dickey Amendment was passed in 1996 and named after Jay Dickey, who was a Republican member of the House of Representatives. The amendment states that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is not allowed to do any research on gun violence using federal money, their only real source of funding.

“It makes no sense, since the CDC controls the study of diseases, and mental illness could be a factor in gun violence,” DeBlackmere said.

Puckett thinks that there are good and bad to both sides.

“I’m mixed, because it is good that people can have guns, but bad that we can’t prevent these mass shootings,” Puckett said.

There was also recently a “sit-in” in congress in June.  Members of the Democratic party sat on the floor of Congress for 24 hours to raise awareness of gun violence. The sit-in did not directly make an impact on the current state of gun control and Congress passed no new gun control laws.

Research shows that other countries with more gun control have fewer deaths caused by shootings. The U.S. has 669 times more murders than the United Kingdom, which has very strict gun control. Even policemen do not carry guns.

Gun control has also played a huge role in the current presidential race.

Hillary Clinton, the democratic candidate for president, says that she believes in gun control, according to her website,

“We’ve got to rein in what has become an almost article of faith that anybody can have a gun anywhere, anytime,” she said during a campaign appearance.  “And I don’t believe that is in the best interest of the vast majority of people.”

Clinton also feels that the government needs to crack down on illegal gun dealers a lot more.

“I am against illegal guns, and illegal guns are the cause of so much death and injury in our country,” she said.

Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, on the other hand, is against gun control.  In fact, he himself has a concealed firearm permit.

According to Health Affairs, 60 percent of gun deaths are caused by people with a mental illness. Trump believes that the government should focus more on helping mentally ill people than on banning guns.

“No matter what you do, guns, no guns, it doesn’t matter,” he said during a campaign event. “You have people that are mentally ill. And they’re going to come through the cracks.”

However, Trump also believes that anyone on the “no-fly” list should not be able to own guns since they are suspected terrorists.

“If somebody is on a watch list and an enemy of state and we know it’s an enemy of state, I would keep them away, absolutely,” Trump said.

The biggest player on the pro-gun ownership side of the argument is the National Rifle Association of America. The members of the NRA believe that the second amendment should not be limited in any way.

Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, has stated that everyone should be able to have guns wherever they go, because he thinks that someone could start a fight or try to kill someone at any time.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, according to LaPierre, is a good guy with a gun.

As a police officer, Conkin has to carry a gun on him at all times. This gives him a unique perspective on the issue of gun control.

“I know it’s there if I ever need it, but I never want to use it because that means something has gone wrong,” he said. “No police officer ever wants to use his or her gun, but sometimes is forced to do so. Carrying a gun is a huge responsibility and I am privileged to have that responsibility, but I would rather be proactive and try and prevent incidents where it would be needed.”

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