by Ariel T '14

Understanding Gun Control in New York City

The shooting in Newton, Connecticut drew attention to gun laws after a year full of other  incidents. Many people throughout the country feel that something needs to be done to restrict people’s access guns in order to protect citizens. In the United States the issue of gun law has become an increasingly touchy subject.

There are a spectrum of positions about gun laws and regulations. On one end of the spectrum are people who want guns to be scarcer in public places. There are people who want there to be guns that are used primarily for hunting and recreation. Others argue guns should be allowed for personal protection. There are people who want background mental checks on people who want to buy guns. At another extreme are people who believe there should be increased presence of guns in schools and that increased amount of guns correlates to increased protection.

People who believe that guns should not be restricted point to studies that show “more gun ownership results in less crime” and argue that “liberals push gun control because it increases the dependency of voters on government for protection” (Conservapedia). Conservatives believe that restricting gun control denies one’s ability to protect oneself and that the Constitution gives the right to own guns necessary to keep the government in check. However this can be negated because when the Constitution was first passed there was no standing army. Similarly it does not make sense that the government would have said that guns and weapon possession should be allowed in order to protect people from the government they were trying to initiate. Instead, democracy was a new concept and it was important to use the democratic process instead of rebelling when a group disagreed with a law. It also is not the case that the Obama administration is interested in taking people’s guns away from them.

The level of control or punishment a gun law entails is important to consider although any gun law passed will be heavily criticized. When guns are used as self defense, for example fired as warning signals, punishment does not seem like it deserves to be as severe as someone who had the intention to kill as was the case with Marissa Alexander in Florida in May of 2012 (CBS). Where is the line drawn between extreme and effective? It is not black and white; not all Republicans want there to be no gun control and Obama and liberalists don’t argue for confiscating weaponry. I think it is fair to say that in terms of federal gun laws, there should be some. It is important to understand different claims and be aware of what is happening with gun policy across the country.

According to a Harvard Study, after strict gun control in Europe lead to over 120,000 deactivated guns, only 0.04% of all gun offenses were a result of their use and as many were not active. Similarly they argue a low correlation between ownership and murder rates. According to the Edmonton Journal in Canada, in 2006 there was a gun amnesty and while this is “politically very good…gangsters don’t give up their guns, and they’re the ones that use them.” In that same year homicides increased. There is a lot of total guns owned per country yet at the same time one person can own many guns. From this it can be argued that the ownership of a gun does not directly correlate to crime. This leads to the effectiveness of the recent gun law passed by the state of New York.

People of both extremes are able to agree that some restrictions on gun policy should be made. This is especially true in New York where on January 15th Governor Cuomo signed the first gun bill since the shooting in Newton, Connecticut. According to CNN Cuomo’s gun bill “requires background checks… on all private sales” in order to “keep the mentally ill from owning firearms.” In addition it preserves laws already in place that prohibit the use of assault weapons and “limits the number of bullets in magazines”. Some commented on the speed of the bill being passed and Cuomo retaliated saying that it had been speedily passed “so as not to create a rush on the gun market.” According to analyst Paul Callan, “the one change that arguably will have the greatest impact is the amendment to Kendra’s Law, which will permit closer monitoring of the mentally ill.” This is arguably a great change and New York is on the curve of progress. This not only implements change that can be observed but is also precautionary and moving in a good direction.

Some students from BSGE shared their views on gun access, background checks, and the difference between recreational gun use and protection. I also took into account the idea of location and whether or not their family has guns or if they would ever buy one. Kevin Likhtshteyn ’14 said interestingly that “purchasing guns is not the problem, however the requirements should be tightened.” He offered the suggestion of “allowing the gun shops to have access to the census, so that they can see who lives at home, and if there is a mental person in the household” and that this knowledge should affect who is allowed to own one. “Precautionary steps should be taken such as putting the gun under lock and key in the household.” Jonnathan Lliguichuzhca ’14 also clearly drew a connection between gun access and mental illness. Jonnathan acknowledged that as a result of “recent events impacting America (murder at Colorado movie theater, at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, at a Connecticut elementary school) I personally feel that a person purchasing a weapon should be screened in order for the government to have a better sense of what type of person he/she is.” It is evident that some students think that there needs to be precaution taken for gun control.
There is a lot to consider when deciding on whether or not someone should have a gun. For example, many students think that those living in New York City will have little use for them. Kevin felt that he “wouldn’t see [himself] buying one for protection, but if I moved somewhere where I had to hunt, or enjoyed to hunt then I would.”

Angie Valladares ’14 pointed out “background checks are necessary but no one can stop people from committing crimes. It would be better though if no one owned guns.” Luke Maxwell ’18 said that “no matter what you do people are just going to use them.” There is an overwhelming pessimistic sense of the inevitable. Jonnathan similarly felt helpless. “In response to the issue of guns being used for recreational purpose versus protection we constitutionally have the right to bear arms and I would say that, though I don’t agree with that amendment, America is a country of power and as someone who can’t vote I feel like I have no say.” This view is reflected by a lot of BSGE students: that we cannot yet vote and so politics seem so far out of our control yet the recent events show how important action is. There is common ground on the idea that the unstable should not have access, and as a result there is support for Governor Cuomo’s signing of the bill that takes extra lengthy measures before allowing someone to own a gun.


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