The Conversation: Gun Control

By Madison Pauly, The Dartmouth Staff | 1/11/13 6:30am

Editor’s Note: The Conversation is a new feature that brings the outside world to Dartmouth. Each week, Madison Pauly ’15 sits down with two members of the Dartmouth community and gets their take on a pressing national issue that Dartmouth students have discussed in Dartbeat Asks. This week, we are featuring members of Pauly’s family because faculty members were not available on such short notice. Next week, Dartbeat Asks and The Conversation tackle the fiscal cliff.

I listened to CNN on the morning of Dec. 14 with a pit in my stomach. Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech, Columbine — and all the shootings that don’t earn newscast nicknames — leave us bewildered with the scale of each disaster, outraged at our personal inability to do something about the tragedies that seem to come more often than years past.

Yet I think that for most of us, the shock soon gives way to anger, and a conviction that something must change. We’ve heard a lot of propositions, from mental health reform to armed security guards to bans on gun shows and certain types of weapons. Which proposals are appropriate, which are effective and how can we prevent this from happening again? There are high passions on both sides and many difficulties to tease out before something can be done. That’s The Conversation.

This week’s post features Nick Tomaszewski of Silver Spring, M.d., and Jess Pauly of Oakland, Calif., as they weigh in on the complicated issue of gun control.

Nick Tomaszewski: To start off, I don’t think we should talk about restrictions on who is able to have guns, because at some point you’re essentially taking away a right. Is it when you commit a crime of some caliber — is that when you lose the right to own a gun? If you have 20 speeding tickets, do you lose it then? If you commit a murder do you lose it? I would think so, but there’s a line that would need to be drawn and it’s difficult to determine. Somebody can have a clean record, but that doesn’t mean they’re clean of mind.

Jess Pauly: Or a good shot.

NT: I think there should be some sort of licens[ing] process, where there’s a written test, or you have to take classes, or something like that.

JP: A gun can kill a person, and a car can kill a person. For a car you need [a] registration, a written test and a driving test. Everybody wants that, because they don’t want someone who is crazy on the road. You have to prove yourself to own a car. You should have to prove yourself to own a gun. It’s not a right that is automatic[ally] assumed and can be taken away afterwards — though violent crime is certainly a reason to lose a right — but in order to [own a gun] in the first place I think you need to earn it.

NT: Exactly. For this kid who was in Newtown, Conn., if only certain crimes cause you to lose a right, he still would have flown under the radar. Most people who go on these mass shootings don’t commit a huge crime before that. Not to mention that he didn’t even own the gun.

JP: Which goes back to the question of why his mother had semi-automatics in the house in the first place.

NT: But I don’t know if you’re going to be able to take the guns out of the house. I don’t know if that will ever happen. This country’s culture has a firm belief that it is a right to own a gun, and I don’t know if you’re going to be able to change that. That’s always going to be that argument.

JP: I’m just saying as a goal, it might be a lofty goal. The initial intent of the Second Amendment, I think, is incredibly important when discussing all of these issues, because it’s prefaced with the phrase “a well-regulated militia.” When I was in middle school, a boy whose father was a cop took his gun and was taking photos with it with his friend. And by accident his best friend shot him in the head and killed him. His father was a police officer. If anyone should have a gun in the house, , it’s a person who is part of our current day “militia” — our police force. And yet we still have those accidents in those homes. We had 13,000 gun-related deaths in America last year. I think hunting rifles are one thing, because that is a potential way to support your family. But handguns are a different issue. I understand people’s personal feelings of security with that protection, but I think the numbers prove that that’s a false notion of safety. I think that other countries have shown statistically that it works against us.

NT: Just to play Devil’s advocate, when you take the guns out of the homes, take a look at history — prohibition. We took alcohol away. What happened? There was a whole underground scene. Just because we take them out of the homes doesn’t mean people won’t keep them in their homes. We talk about it like driving a car, but operating a vehicle is something that can be monitored much more easily than whether you have a gun or not in your home.

JP: But spousal abuse and familial abuse did decrease because of prohibition, and after prohibition. So there was a positive effect even though prohibition itself failed.

NT: But that’s why I think it should be approached from a different angle — not necessarily taking it out of the home but making it more difficult to acquire a gun in the first place.

Amelia Rosch, The Dartmouth: NH State Senate will consider firearm laws

Madison Pauly, The Dartmouth Staff