By Yameen Huq
As election day nears, many Tech students will analyze the candidates’ stances on key issues in an attempt to choose the best person for the presidency. For some, this means looking at the presidential candidates’ policies regarding gun rights.
Security issues—whether on a personal, economic or national level—affect Americans directly. Those for gun control believe that reducing the supply of guns is necessary to fight crime and keep guns away from criminals. Those against gun control argue that it is ineffective and gives an advantage to lawbreakers who obtain guns through illegal channels over law-abiding citizens.
Ultimately, both candidates have the safety of the people as their top concern, but differ in their way of implementing it. One side sees equality under police and government as the answer, the other emphasizes in the individual’s right to bear arms.
Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama has been moderate on the issue of gun control, when compared to some other Democrats who tend to lean towards the extreme end of the gun control spectrum. Obama supports the Second Amendment and the decision of the Supreme Court to defend gun rights from the national government. However, he has strongly supported the rights of local and state governments to determine how much gun control is desirable. For example, in his home state of Illinois, he endorsed a gun ban that made it illegal for people to carry concealed weapons in public. This was particularly important for Illinois because the state, including the city of Chicago, was home to hotbeds of crime and violence.
The bill qualified this ban by allowing retired police officers the right to carry concealed weapons. At the same time, he also supported regulations in the weapons industry, encouraging “common-sense regulation” on gun licensing such as background checks as well as limiting gun purchases to one gun per month. The latter belief was put into practice with a bill he cosponsored in Illinois to limit gun purchases.
Keeping in line with progressive values, Obama has emphasized that uplifting the economy and changing society is the treatment America needs to reduce crime, as opposed to the temporary bandage he believes gun rights give. He believes in punishing the gun dealers who provide weapons on the street, letting them fall into the hands of the youth. He has criticized the president for not renewing the assault weapons ban, a previously “hot-button” issue from the 2004 presidential election.
While in the Senate, Obama has continued to fight against the gun society, voting no on the prohibition of lawsuits against gun manufacturers. His ultimate belief on gun control is that stopping the illegal street sale of guns is the best way to reduce crime.
McCain has taken the opposing view, standing behind the Second Amendment as the right to defend oneself. Despite being a war hero, he admits to not owning a gun but defends the rights of other individuals to do so. He sees nothing wrong with law-abiding citizens who own guns, but advocates strong prosecution against transgressors who have used guns illegally. Throughout his career, he has always emphasized punishing the criminals rather than the means by which they break the law. Over the years, gun rights advocates have voiced the opinion that people kill people, not guns.
However, McCain’s policies on high powered assault weapons have been slightly less consistent. McCain has spoken against assault weapons and cheap guns, and he also voted against the assault weapons ban that Bush did not renew.
He has supported the requiring of safety locks and the Youth Violence Prevention Act, which restricted guns from children. To qualify that, McCain has previously voted “yes” on allowing guns sold without trigger locks.
Staying true to his conservative roots, McCain has emphasized the rule of law focusing on penalties for gun violations even if the laws go against his beliefs. McCain emphasizes change in society as a better way to alleviate crime than armed citizenry.
Differing from Obama’s social approach, he has taken a moral values-oriented approach, stating that violent web sites and media are also a major cause of violent crime in the United States. McCain believes in the importance of self-defense and liberty, but agrees with Obama that changing the state of society is a must.
Third-party candidates have their own stances on gun rights. Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, during his tenure in Congress, supported banning lawsuits against gun manufacturers and attempted to decrease the gun waiting period from three days to one.
“I oppose any law requiring registration of, or restricting the ownership, manufacture or transfer sale of firearms or ammunition to law-abiding citizens,” said Barr on his campaign website.
Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin is a member of Gun Owners of America and the National Rifle Association while at the same time stating that buying guns protects liberty.
Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney has taken an opposing view, going against decreasing the gun waiting period and encouraging lawsuits against gun manufacturers for misuse. McKinney’s views are in line with Obama’s while Baldwin and Barr have taken a more conservative stance than McCain.
Although Tech’s campus is a weapon free zone, students may be interested in gun rights because of the nature of our urban environment, especially in light of the student massacres throughout other campuses such as Virginia Tech.
Whether students see guns as the answer or the problem could potentially determine who they elect as the next president: Obama, who holds guns owners and gun companies accountable, or McCain, who believes in the right to bear arms and the right to self-defense, or one of the third-party candidates.