Sandy Hook: The battle over gun control

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As the Sandy Hook hearings start to pick up steam in Hartford, Ct. on the heels of President Obama’s historic gun control proposals on Wednesday, politicians on both sides of the spectrum are debating gun rights and gun control. However, many are wondering whether the heated discussions are really effective in addressing the issue and making real change.

President Obama announced his major proposals on Wednesday, including banning assault rifles and implementing stricter background checks and ammunition limits. The long-standing resistance to these efforts makes the chance of real action uncertain, but both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, head of the president’s task force on gun violence, are cautiously optimistic.

“I have no illusions about what we’re up against or how hard the task is in front of us,” Biden said. “But I also have never seen the nation’s conscience so shaken [as] by what happened at Sandy Hook.”

Obama has also acknowledged the difficulty of passing such measures in the midst of the National Rifle Association’s campaign for gun rights and armed guards, but he is insistent on taking action.

He will be using his executive powers to promote spending on gun control research and attention to mental health issues, and he will also certainly be keeping both Congress and the American public on their toes.

“Congress must act, and Congress must act soon,” he said, “This will not happen unless the American people demand it.”

This Monday, more than 1,000 people braved the snow and chilly weather to attend the second of four Sandy Hook hearings at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Ct.

The hearings gave state and local officials, gun sellers, gun manufacturers and the families of the victims of the Dec. 14 shooting a forum to express their views about Connecticut legislators’ efforts to reduce gun violence.

The previous hearing on Friday focused on school security, and two more hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday will respectively be directed toward mental health issues and the views of the community most affected by the shootings.

While the Sandy Hook hearings are instrumental in providing an arena for conversation about addressing the tragedy, many people are growing tired of the lack of action stemming from the discussion.  Tom Bittman co-founded the Sandy Hook Promise initiative to get people talking about gun control, mental health and school security to honor the shooting victims with the hope of “real change,” and he insists that words need to instigate actions.

“Doing nothing is no longer an option,” Bittman said at the launch of Sandy Hook Promise Jan. 14.  “We want Newtown to be remembered for change, not tragedy.”

Students at Christopher Newport University are also expressing their views on what politicians are doing about the tragedy, and most are in favor of the actions being taken in light of the shooting, even when they are unsure of where they fall in the gun spectrum.

Junior marketing and management major Nick Henderson sees the gun control discussion both ways. “Truthfully I’m unbiased towards it, but ethically I’m conflicted because I think people should have the right to own a gun but in recent years nothing good has come out of it,” Nick said.  Still, he says that politicians will capitalize on any sort of tragedy involving guns because it is in their nature to do so.

Sophomore political science major Ross Sylvestri agrees that politicians are capitalizing on the Sandy Hook tragedy, but the effectiveness of the agenda-pushing on both sides is debatable. “I do think there are politicians who are trying to push their agenda because every time that a tragedy like Sandy Hook happens, a mass shooting with lots of casualty, there’s automatically a push for more gun control without looking at how it would have prevented such a tragedy,” he said. “I also think the gun rights advocates are sensationalizing this by counteracting hysteria with more hysteria with the idea of putting more armed guards in school. Both sides seem to be creating hysteria instead of actually having a rational discussion about how to deal with this tragedy and how to prevent it in the future.”

Senior history and classical studies major Molly Waidmann said, “Gun control is a serious issue and the problem with the American public is that we have very short memories. They are capitalizing on this but I think it’s necessary to effect change. It’s tragic that I think it’s necessary but I do think it’s necessary.”