Several weeks ago, President Barack Obama gave an emotional speech about the issue of gun violence in America. Obama began his speech with several personal stories and then proceeded to speak about the issue of gun violence, and its prevalence in America.
“The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people,” Obama said. “We are not inherently more prone to violence. But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency.”
Obama claims that easy access to guns is to blame for this prevalence, and that there are sensible restrictions to help reduce violence. He puts the actions the executive branch is going to take into four areas.
First, Obama is requiring that all those selling firearms get a license and conduct background checks. He plans to crack down on internet sales and gun shows. Second, he plans to enforce gun laws already on the books by adding 200 more ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) agents and investigators.
Third, Obama plans to put more money toward mental illness health. He says he will “invest” 500 million dollars toward increasing mental health treatment and putting mental health records on background check databases.
“Put your money where your mouth is,” Obama said, addressing Congress. With so many on the pro-gun side of this issue decrying mental illness as the major problem, as opposed to guns, the President is listening.
Finally, the President raised the priority and increased funding for gun safety technology. He wants to reduce gun accidents and misfires.
“If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure they can’t pull a trigger on a gun,” Obama said.
Guns are a topic that people are passionate about in the Central Utah area. Most of those that live here have guns, and many use them frequently. Most students at NS have read or listened to the President’s address. However, many do not know exactly what the President proposed, and don’t know what to think of it.
Among those that do know what the new proposals are, though, the response to Obama’s new restrictions was surprisingly favorable.
“I think [the new measures] are fair, actually…the president gets way too much heat,” said junior Blade Cox. Although Cox is wary about gun restrictions, he finds the new measures reasonable.
“I’m all for [the increased background checks]; I think it’s important,” Cox said. “[However], I’m scared of giving up too much gun control because we can end up without any gun rights.”
William Cox, junior at NS, is also supportive, although he stresses the importance of firearms for self-defense.
“We have a right to protect ourselves,” William Cox said. “You don’t have to have a gun to protect yourself, but it sure makes it a lot easier.”
Although William Cox is passionate about gun rights, he supports the new restrictions.
“It’s a bad idea to give guns to everybody, obviously,” William Cox said. “The [President’s] new measures are reasonable.”
Brenden Blackham, also a junior at NS, has similar feelings. Drawing from personal experience, he is especially supportive for the new mental health regulations.
“Some mental health laws are ridiculous, and some aren’t ridiculous enough,” Blackham said. “I think [the new measures] are a good idea.”
Blackham, another gun supporter, thinks that Obama’s new plans are a step in the right direction, but he comes to the conclusion that they fail to give solutions to the problems of many gun deaths–accidents and suicides.
“Honestly, [firearm] education is more important,” Blackham said. “Training and education will help better solve the problem.” In fact, even with the general gun culture NS has, guns are not most students’ highest priority.
“There are more important things, but guns are pretty high up there,” said freshman Tyler Hadley. “I like to go shoot things…but who needs an AK-47?” Hadley’s attitude about gun restrictions is pretty common among other students, including junior Carl Peel.
“Guns are not a deciding issue for me,” Peel said. “I have no idea what would be, but I’m sure there are more important things. I support guns as much as anybody, but there are better things to worry about.”
To most of the student body at NS, guns are not their biggest concern.
To Greg Peterson , resource officer at NS, though, guns and gun rights are a huge part of his life. Peterson holds a position in strong defense of gun rights, and although he does not have a quarrel with any of the specific measures President Obama has taken in the recent executive actions, he thinks the new restrictions will do very little to help gun violence.
“I respect the President and his office,” Peterson said. “However, the President’s measures will not help. Criminals will always be able to get firearms from [illegal sources]… Look at the war on drugs. When we restrict something, criminals will still get it.” As Peterson recognizes the futility of Obama’s efforts, he stresses the importance of individually-owned firearms.
“I wish that when you called 911, me or another officer were on the scene in seconds…That’s not possible. Guns can be an important resource,” Peterson said.
Peterson strongly believes that gun owners are in a better position to dictate gun policy than non-gun owners. According to Peterson, actual experience with firearms is a prerequisite for speaking on the subject of banning guns.
“The President has said that he has never owned a gun…I do not want someone who admits he has never owned a gun to tell me to give mine up,” said Peterson. “I don’t see anybody who is a dedicated gun owner trying to get rid of guns.”Further, Peterson finds a level of hypocrisy in a public, political figure, like the President, trying to get rid of guns.
“Who is it that protects the President? People with guns,” said Peterson. “I find that very interesting.