The topic of this year's writing contest is:
Guns, the Second Amendment, and SIUC: What Would Make Me Feel Safe?
January 13, the Daily Egyptian reported that "The university (SIUC) took steps to oppose firearms on campus by joining more than 355 colleges and universities in the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus.”
President Barack Obama said “We won’t be able to stop every violent act, but if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation, all of us, to try.” January 16, he announced 23 executive actions on gun control.
The same day U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, IL, called it “disappointing" that “Obama chose to implement the new federal restrictions through executive order." He announced that he will "form the Southern Illinois Gun Task Force in the wake of President Barack Obama's plans to implement new restrictions on gun ownership.”
January 18, Carbondale Mayor Joel Fritzler said that he wants “a change in the gun industry. He agrees with President Obama's proposal to institute universal background checks, restrict sale of certain guns, and put money toward mental health programs.”
January 29, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon from Carbondale IL launched Firearming Work Group. She said “Given the court order that currently requires the state to pass a concealed carry law, we, as state leaders, need to be able to engage in honest discussion. It's hard to have that honest discussion without fully understanding all perspectives on these issues.” In the coming months, Simon’s Working Group will “meet with stakeholders, including gun owners, hunters, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, families of gun violence victims, educators and firearm retailers. The group will also visit a Southern Illinois shooting range to learn more about the safe operation of firearms.”
What would YOU say?
In a written work of 1000-1500 words, answer the question about what steps SIUC can take to make our campus as safe from gun violence as possible. Give a reasoned response to the problem of gun violence in American society as it affects SIUC. This response should take into account the right to gun ownership guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution as upheld by recent court cases.
Submissions are due by 11:59pm on April 15, 2013.
Recent court cases and a series of horrific mass shootings have reinvigorated a national debate about guns. Columbine, Virginia Tech, NIU, Aurora and Newtown are names that invoke horror and outrage and inspire fear. Closer to home, gun violence has led to a 16 per cent increase in the homicide rate in Chicago last year.The recent horrific shooting of twenty children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and the almost daily gun-related homicides in Chicago in particular have resulted in a flurry of legislative activity from the nation’s capital to state houses and cities throughout the country. President Obama made gun control a special focus of his State of the Union address and proposed a series of legislative initiatives and executive actions.
Meanwhile, in a pair of recent cases the U. S. Supreme Court has strongly affirmed under the Second Amendment to the Constitution an individual’s right to own guns for lawful purposes, including self-defense in the home. InWashington, D. C. v. Heller, 2008, the court rejected Washington’s ban on handguns in the home. In and McDonald v. Chicago, 2010, the court found that this Second Amendment right cannot be abridged by state and local governments and struck down Chicago’s ban on handguns. In 2012, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals foundthat the Second Amendment includes the right to bear arms for self-defense not only in the home but also in public and struck down Illinois’ ban on the concealed carrying of firearms (Moore v. Madigan). The court gave Illinois 180 days to draft a concealed-carry law.Illinois is currently wrestling with a response to the Moore v. Madigan decision, contemplating an appeal while trying to come up with concealed-carry legislation that protects public safety.
Whatever the state of Illinois comes up with will have implications for SIUC. The Moore v. Madigan decision allows for “reasonable limitations” to the right to carry a gun, including the prohibition of guns from government buildings. Legislation currently under consideration by the Illinois General Assembly says explicitly that “a community college, college, or university may prohibit the carrying of a firearm on its campus” (HB0997 70.13). A previous version of this bill, however, would have held a college or university civilly liable if a concealed-carry permit holder who was prevented from carrying on campus were injured from a criminal act. Some states are proposing, and Utah has passed, legislation prohibiting universities from restricting the possession of guns on campus. SIUC’sresponse so far has been to join the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, which seeks to maintain bans on guns on university property.
The outlines of the basic arguments of each side in this debate are known. Some contend that the way to reduce the level of gun violence in our society is through restrictions on gun ownership and use. Others say that easing restrictions on bearing arms will make society safer by ensuring that most of the people with guns are responsible citizens who can defend themselves against the criminals with guns. What do you think?
Associate Professor, Government Information Librarian, Information Services Department