The right to bear arms?

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A second look at handguns and background checks

More than 1,500 people have lost their lives to gun related violence since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14.

Feb. 3 marked Stockton’s first homicide of the year. A 34-year old man was gunned down in the early morning in South Stockton.

“We have this flood of guns everywhere,” John Sims, Professor of Law at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. “Reducing or

eliminating the super dangerous weapons is a good idea … and follows the constitution.”

The Second Amendment has long been subject to varying interpretations.

Initially, Sims said, the amendment was designed to protect the militia.

In 2008, the Supreme Court confirmed, in the District of Columbia vs. Heller case, that individuals themselves do have the right to bear arms. “D.C had banned handguns almost entirely. The court agreed with [Heller]. As for a political entity, D.C is very unusual in controlling guns,” Sims said.

So far, the Supreme Court has agreed to the right of having a gun in the home to protect oneself. But today, the debate arises over what types of guns civilians have the right to obtain.

A semi-automatic AR-15 can fire 45 shots a minute. “Assault rifles make possible a certain kind of visible horrible crime,” Sims said.

However, deaths caused by assault rifles are relatively small in number. It begs the question: are we the people, and politicians, pointing the finger at the wrong subject? “If you looked at the number of people who are killed today, most of those people would be killed by handguns,” he said.

After the theater shooting in Colorado, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, made a controversial comment saying less people would have been killed if someone were carrying a gun. Sims partly disagrees. “Most people who have guns aren’t trained. When you’re dealing with people who are untrained, the number [of casualties] escalates dramatically,” he said.

As deadly as they may be, banning handguns is out of the question, according to Sims. “It might start to raise questions on the second amendment.

I don’t think we’ll see that happen.”

Action is already being taken towards tightening gun laws, even as the debate rages on.

In January, President Barack Obama passed 23 executive orders for gun control regulations.

In the 16-page document released by the White House, the emphasis is primarily on background checks.

One section reads: “The background check system is the most efficient and effective way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals, but we need to make sure it has access to complete information about these individuals.”

The FBI created the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in 1998.
It is used by Federal Firearms Licenses to quickly verify if the customer is suitable to posses a firearm.

The new proposals by the President would close the gun show loophole. At a licensed firearms dealer, a licensed gun store – the consumer is legally required to take a background check. In gun shows, or private dealers, a person is not subject to that check.

Everyday, the number of victims rises. Either with a handgun, or an assault rifle – the power of the gun is unquestionable.

“Killing someone without a gun is hard to do. It’s a messy business. Obviously, everything in the world has been used as a murder weapon, but not as often,” Sims said.