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In the Media

article imageOp-Ed: How does Virginia Tech affect U.S. gun laws?

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By Christopher Wager
Dec 11, 2011 in Politics
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The location of the senseless shooting brings no bearing or significance to the crime or greater lobbying for stricter gun control on the federal level.
Recently there has been a second tragic shooting involving Virginia Tech College, where a Virginia Tech police officer was shot to death while making a routine traffic stop. Later, the shooter took his own life as reported by The Arizona Republic.
"How does the VTC shooting affect U.S. gun laws?" The real question is "Is VTC affected by U.S. gun laws?" The answer is No. VTC can impose their own gun carrying policies for the school, which they have, and may be subject to local gun regulations. However, just because the shooting took place at Virginia Tech has no real bearing; similar shootings happen every day.
To begin to understand gun control, we must start at the federal level. One cannot speak of federal gun control without speaking of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency (ATF). The ATF is responsible, not for legislating gun control laws or arguing the second amendment, but for enforcement. One of the primary functions of the ATF is to enforce gun control through inspections of sellers, dealers, and importers. Also, it is spelled out to dealers and resellers who may own a gun and who may not. For example, those with a police or federal crime record, and those with a mental disability are among those who cannot. In addition, it is the business of the FBI to insure background check are being done. However, for the most part the states have the discretion to create what they feel to be reasonable gun control, as stated earlier there are restrictions to the freedom of the second amendment.
Each state has their own particulars when it comes to gun control legislation. To ask "Could more or different control laws have prevented the shooting?" Perhaps they could, but not at the federal level. In one of the news pieces, the question was asked: "Did the shooter have a gun permit?" Again, that is the wrong question. Virginia is one of many states with what is called an open-carry law, which means if a person clears a background check, and has no other criminal, domestic, or mental restrictions preventing him from purchasing a gun; he may in fact carry a gun without any permit or conceal carry license in plain sight in Virginia.
Gun sales are made every day between private owners, and the language is clear as dictated by the ATF as well as the Virginia legislation. There are more restrictions pertaining to the shipment of firearms and ammunition than regarding private sale.
What is at play here is what the shooter's intentions are? Having possession of a gun makes it easier for someone with the intention to harm, or easier for a person with the intention to protect. To say stricter laws and gun tracking would prevent a shooting; no. If a shooter has the intention to do harm, it will happen. Open carry just makes it more convenient. As well as some of the other rather relaxed policies invoked by the State of Virginia such as no proficiency test to carry a handgun, no gun registration, no "cooling off period", and a no waiting period. Given the recent Washington Fast and Furious scandal, it would be hard for the federal government to use the shooting as an excuse to lobby for stricter gun legislation at this time, not to mention pressures from such groups as the NRA.
In regards to Virginia Tech, since the last tragic shooting occurred where 33 people lost their lives; the school has spent a considerable amount of time. and money investing in an alert system, where sirens are blown across the school and alerts go out over emails, texts, and social networks in order to warn students and staff to the danger.
Police officers and gun dealers, nor the ATF can begin to speculate the intention of a person to do harm at any given moment, regardless of their weapon, a car, a gun, or a knife. Society will never be able to fully protect itself. What happened to the officer with five children right before the holiday is a tragedy and a crime. It is him and others like him that put their lives on the line every day that help to keep the rest of us and our families safe from people's intentions.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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