Gun restrictions: Reasonable restrictions worthy of consideration

Jennifer Abplanalp, Opinions Editor

When Jared Loughner killed six people and wounded an additional 13 including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., he did so with a semi-automatic Glock 19 9mm and a 33 round magazine that he purchased legally.

While mental illness was one of the contributing factors in the tragedy of Jan. 8, it was Loughner’s easy accessibility to previously banned firearm components that is especially disconcerting. Accordingly, citizens should again question why this country’s gun laws are so woefully outdated and take into careful consideration what is reasonable and what isn’t.

The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban restricted the manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines with capacities over 10 rounds. The ban was allowed to expire in Sept. 2004 during the Bush administration.

In Tucson, Loughner spent the initial 33 round clip during the attack and was tackled while attempting to reload his firearm with his second 33 round clip. He was also in possession of two 15 round magazines. Provided all these magazines were loaded to capacity, Loughner was armed with 96 rounds of ammunition.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution says, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” However, it is the opinion of many Americans that the Constitutional framers would not have extended protection to much of the weapons technology we encounter in the contemporary market.

“The hard question is … what significance should we attach to the change in technology?” said Professor Andrew Coan, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Wisconsin Law School. “The Supreme Court protects the class of weapons most widely used for, among other things, self defense, and that class of weapons at least includes handguns.”

While they may not like it, the majority of people in this country recognize and respect, or at least grudgingly accept, this second amendment right. It is, however, the people’s responsibility to continue to question what the framers of our constitution intended.

What technology is, and is not, necessary for the purpose of self-defense becomes an ethical question, Coan said. He referenced assault weapons and modified assault weapons such as Loughner’s Glock as examples of this question.

At the very least one should assert that high-capacity ammunition clips, firearms such as the AK47, or grenade launchers are examples of offensive, not defensive, weaponry. The sole purposes of these weapons are to kill large numbers of individuals quickly, and are unnecessary for self-defense.

No longer are we in danger of Redcoats arriving to rape, murder, and pillage in the absence of law enforcement or the U.S. military. Furthermore, the climate of fear that we currently find ourselves in necessitates the responsibility of a society to place reasonable restrictions on weapons, especially those that the framers of the Constitution could hardly have imagined.

To make his final point Coan quoted someone who he believes to be one of the greatest jurors in American history: former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. “The present has the right to govern itself so far as it can; and it ought always be remembered that historic continuity with the past is not a duty, it is only a necessity.”