President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden revealed a gun control proposal package Wednesday after several weeks of heated debates.
Along with a new prohibition of automatic and semi-automatic rifles, restrictions will be applied to large magazines and strict background checks will be required to purchase firearms.
After 20 students and six adults were killed in Newtown, Conn., a month ago, gun control debates have been at an ever-steady rise. Public universities nationwide have joined the discussion and voiced their positions to the vice president.
Biden asked the National Campus Leadership Council to gather informed opinions from students. Murray State’s Student Government Association was one of several groups asked to give its perspective.
NCLC released a memo of the most prevalent student ideas related to new gun control policies after collecting all answers from their national questionnaire. The memo includes positions from 16 different college campuses.
The NCLC student consensus focuses on mental well-being and campus preparedness. Students also consistently said it is up to the faculty of individual universities to determine their own gun policies.
Bonnie Higginson, vice president of Academic Affairs, said Murray State has done an excellent job of becoming more prepared for emergency situations.
“It’s a shame these conversations start after such tragic events,” Higginson said. “They always need to take place.”
Last summer, the Kentucky Supreme Court passed a ruling stating Kentucky education institutions are required by law to allow students, faculty and staff to keep concealed weapons in their cars.
The court also ruled institutions should regulate concealed weapons according to their individual concerns anywhere else on campus. Michael Bruzynski, a junior from Stratford, Conn., said he believes there is no reason for students to carry firearms on campus.
“You don’t need a gun in the dorms,” Bruzynski said. “If it’s just in your car and no one can see it, it’s not posing a threat.”
The school has suggested students keep their firearms concealed and out of public view in their vehicles. So far, the policy has continued without any complications.
Along with new firearm policies at universities, students believe background checks to purchase firearms should become more rigorous. In the state of Kentucky, a civilian is not required to acquire a permit, register or license any shotgun or handgun. However, civilians are required to take a course and go through a background check to carry a concealed firearm.
A simple one-time course may not be enough to educate individuals on the subject of gun safety, according to Tyler Straub, senior from Louisville, Ky. Straub insists students should be proficient in their knowledge of firearms, whether they own one or not.
Straub said many individuals are waiting to ban certain firearms because they do not understand their functions.
“What in your eyes makes an assault rifle?” Straub said.
The dictionary definition of an assault rifle claims it is a rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic rifle designed for infantry use.
Straub noted many times these high-capacity weapons are used to target fast-moving game and are not only used for military purposes. Many competitive gun clubs use high-caliber weapons with a clip containing as many as 25 shots.
In recent discussions, Biden and his panel of advisors have discussed a ban on clips containing more than 10 rounds. Straub said he disagrees, 12-15 rounds would be ideal for civilian purposes.
“Under the stress and inexperience a person may face in a break-in, they may not have time to reload if there are multiple attackers,” Straub said. “However, 20-25 shots shouldn’t be necessary.”
While Straub is an avid hunter of several different types of game, many students are not comfortable with the current way individuals can buy firearms. Jordan Allen, a senior from Russellville, Ky., said he does not believe certain high-capacity guns should be manufactured.
“Civilian weapons belong in the hands of civilians,” Allen said. “Unless you’re in a war zone you don’t need an assault rifle.”
Allen said he believes individuals can arm themselves with non-lethal weapons, such as a Taser or pepper spray. He claims using a lethal weapon against a person abolishes the offender’s right to justice.
Allen also said officials and the public have a definite misunderstanding of the role mental health can play in the arms control debate.
“Even those that can’t afford larger institutions should be able to consult with a mental health professional,” he said.
Allen said even though the University provides counseling for students, there is not enough emphasis on its effectiveness.
Currently, Murray State provides university counseling services, which includes the counseling center, the testing center and the Women’s Center. Also, students can report concerns about other individuals on campus through the student intervention team.
Straub said he believes a push for stronger mental health would benefit any college campus. He said, however, it is hard to judge whether or not mental health has an effect on gun control.
“(James) Holmes (convicted in the Aurora, Colo. mass shooting) was a Ph.D. student who probably never considered himself seriously mentally ill,” Straub said. “How are mental health institutions supposed to stop a patient from getting their hands on a gun?”
In the end, many students feel like new federal policies should come into play when dealing with high-capacity weapons.
“I think it’s better to do something than nothing,” Allen said. “There are some people that want to continue doing nothing and we don’t get anywhere.”
Allen and Straub said citizens have varying opinions and a government all-or-nothing approach would not be ideal.
Story by Lexy Gross, Assistant News Editor.