I was surprised this week from the feedback about my last column. Not because of varying responses – some agreement, some opposition – but because the number of responses and reach of the column. In September 2011, I wrote a similar column arguing for stricter gun laws – “guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Some people just shouldn’t have guns.” Not nearly as many people responded and responded so strongly then.
So, when I began receiving responses from Dearborn, Mich. and England, I knew one thing – it’s a Presidential election year in the U.S. and this is a touchy subject. But, I believe more strongly in the First Amendment – the right to free speech. So, I wanted to follow up my column from last week with a column unlike any of my others.
My best friend and I share some common views; we also disagree on many. That’s what makes us great, however. With that thought in mind and his continued text messages disagreeing with my views, I decided that a point-counterpoint column might be fun.
Derek Heersink graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Crop Soil Science and a B.S. in Agricultural Business. A Valley native, Derek grew up on a farm and now owns his own farm in the Valley and manages a farm in Clayton, N.M. Politically, he describes himself as a libertarian that leans conservative – and an avid gun rights supporter. And, he’s my best friend.
After speaking with him, we decided it would be fun to answer five questions, the first of three which are in this first part of our Point-Counterpoint (the last two running a subsequent edition of the Courier):
What does the Second Amendment mean to you and is it outdated?
Derek: I take the Second Amendment quite literally. Everyone has the right to own firearms so as long as they pass a background check. People should not be restricted by the government as to what they can or cannot buy. Also, although guns have advanced exponentially, I submit that they have become tremendously safer for the gun owner. Their safety mechanisms and ammunition technology has helped prevent misfires and other mechanical failures that were issues in the past.
Lance: I believe the Second Amendment to be outdated. The Constitution is organic and should progress as the country progresses. Guns, gun distribution and production, and the use of guns are not the same as it was in 1789. Therefore, the Second Amendment should not be seen as it was in 1789. Semiautomatic and automatic combat rifles did not exist when the Second Amendment was authored – the Founder’s could have had no idea that an assault rifle could be owned by the average citizen or what an assault rifle was capable of doing. What average citizen needs to own a military style gun?
Does the US need stricter gun or ammunition laws? If so, how?
Derek: I don’t see realistically how the government can bring forth stricter gun and ammunition laws without infringing on law abiding, non-threatening US citizens. Yes, under the current laws there have been incidents like the Aurora shooting, Virginia tech, and others but who is to say those people wouldn’t have gotten those guns with stricter laws? People that want guns to hurt others are going to get them whether it’s legal or not. Take drugs in the United States as an example, they are illegal but we all know people that do or have done them before and without much trouble of accessing them. What logic is there to think that making gun laws stricter wouldn’t have the same result?
Lance: I believe there needs to tougher regulations on how guns and ammunition are sold. Just about anyone can walk into a local pawnshop and by a gun. Wal-Mart, Big R, and other retail stores sell ammunition – I bought it at 18. I do not believe it would be easy to regulate the sale and distribution of these materials, but too often the wrong hands pull the trigger.
Should there be a required training program in order to own a gun?
Derek: That’s a tricky question. Most gun owners, the ones I know at least, know how to use their firearms and take the time to shoot and get to know each weapon. Now there are situations where someone buys a firearm to be protected and has never fired a gun before in their lives. Should they be required to take a class to purchase the weapon? The libertarian in me says no. Should they be encouraged by the salesmen to voluntarily take a gun and self-protection class? By all means YES! Should there be more classes offered, especially in areas where there is a chance of more first time gun owners will be? YES. Maybe a certain percent discount on the firearm can be given to people that take a class.
Lance: Yes, more training is needed in order to own guns. I don’t believe it is realistic to think training can retroactive – current gun owners and license holders cannot be forced to go through new training to retain the guns they currently own or the license they currently hold. In order to update registration or for new registrants and owners, however, hunter’s safety programs are not enough. After all, many people own guns but do not hunt.