Local gun owners speak out about proposed legislation

BY RYAN YOUNG

With both major political parties debating over a proper solution for gun violence, and with the recent massacre in Parkland, Florida, local gun owners of Monterey County have strong opinions on what they believe should be done to prevent future school shootings.

After the mass shooting in Parkland, shook the nation, many Americans came to the realization that something drastically needs to change in order to prevent future attacks on innocent children. The Republican Party focused its efforts on increasing background checks, arming teachers and addressing mental health concerns.

“Changes that should be made to protect students in schools are to train and issue firearms to teachers or administrators if they are willing,” says Hunter Garrison, executive director of the Monterey County Republican Party and a CHS graduate. “If I was to have a child in school and there was a shooter on campus I would feel much safer knowing there are multiple adults on campus trained to use a firearm and able to address a hostile scene. This is a common sense action school districts can take to insure the safety of their students.”

Currently, President Donald Trump has met with students, teachers and community leaders, formed multiple commissions in order to study the option of raising the minimum age for buying a gun to 21 and increasing background checks, as well as discussing expanding and reforming mental health programs.

On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic Party proposed a ban on AR-15 assault rifles and raising the age to purchase a gun to 21.

“We support a common-sense ban on deadly assault weapons and devices used to turn rifles into automatic weapons such as bump-stocks, as well as the expansion of universal background checks,” says former CHS librarian Elena Loomis, the current vice chair of the Monterey County Democratic Party. “We also support keeping firearms out of dangerous hands by expanding firearm prohibitions to those who, based on past behavior or condition, are deemed at risk of acts of violence.”

Multiple Democratic senators and lawmakers are supporting rallies and protests advocating for stricter gun laws, as well as participating i bipartisan discussions on the proper solutions that need to be reached.

But what do gun owners think?

“I think whenever mass shootings occur they are quick to politicize it and say that all gun owners are bad,” says CHS junior Kristofer Kimes, whose parents own guns. “They quickly say that the government should take guns away from law-abiding citizens, which is wrong and unconstitutional. When 9/11 happened we didn’t blame the planes, did we? Or when the Boston bombing happened, we didn’t blame the bombs? No, we blamed the people behind the weapons. I don’t think you should blame the gun, but instead the person using it to commit horrible atrocities.”

A possible solution being discussed on both sides of the aisle is the possibility of raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21.

“I think that between 18 and 21 people can change a lot, and honestly that change can prevent someone from being violent and possibly hurting others,” says Marianne Tucker, a local gun owner and mother of CHS senior William Tucker.

A common theme expressed on the Democratic side is the idea that the weapon used in the Parkland shooting is part of the problem, and that a ban on assault rifles is one of the many solutions for gun violence. However, many gun owners say otherwise.

“I believe blaming guns for the horrible shootings taking place is a reflection of a misguided societal shift to a sensation and emotional response rather than an intellectual and fact-based approach,” says Chris Curtiss, a local gun owner and father of CHS junior Noah Bernal.

Tucker’s son, William, also disagrees with the proposed ban on assault rifles.

“I completely disagree with the proposed ban on assault rifles,” William says. “Virginia Tech shooting killed 33 people and that was done with two pistols. The Fort Hood shooting killed just about as many people as Parkland, and that was done with one pistol. A pistol in many cases can do as much damage as an assault rifle.”

With many gun owners speaking up and making it clear that the proposed ban on AR-15 assault rifles is not the proper solution, there are also some who are suggesting other methods as well as the ban.

“Number one is to have more extensive background checks,” says CHS sophomore Hana Kamler, whose parents also own guns. “I don’t think anyone should just be eligible for guns. I think we could look at a potential banning of semi-automatic weapons as well. Lastly, and most importantly, is to just be more aware as a society in general. If you see a person who looks alone, we should try to comfort that person and try to help them fit in. If there are any signs that that person is going to shoot up the school, it needs to be reported. We could have armed school police too. Just increasing security around schools in general will help.”

Curtiss’ son, Noah, is less concerned about the type of gun and more concerned about the inaction of law enforcement.

“I think that there needs to be less focus on the fact that an AR-15 was used, and more focus on why certain criminals were allowed to continue their plan without interference,” Bernal says. “Pertaining to the Parkland shooting, the FBI knew what he was saying on social media, Instagram knew what he was posting, the local police department had already received 18 calls pertaining to the criminal, only 16 of which were reported, and the list goes on. Why aren’t we focused on the FBI and why they didn’t do something?”

The FBI had multiple reports from people who knew the killer, Nikolas Cruz, but did not follow the proper protocol or take the necessary steps to preventing the horrible massacre in Parkland. The FBI, local law enforcement and the on-campus police officer have come under fire by the president for their inaction.

“When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage, or something happened,” President Trump said. “But he certainly did a poor job, there’s no question about that.”

Many people in the Republican Party believe that arming teachers and putting trained officers on campus will prevent future school shootings, and while the armed school officer was unable to step up in Parkland, just weeks ago a school officer in Maryland was able to stop a school shooter before any casualties took place.

Ric Swanson, a local gun owner and U.S. Marine whose son Jonathan Swanson is a junior at CHS, proposes a unique proposition that he believes will not only help prevent future school shootings, but also provide jobs for veterans.

“Seeing as many of my family members and myself have served in the military and seen firsthand what happens to our veterans when they arrive home, I say that we should employ the homeless and jobless veterans as armed guards on our campus,” Swanson says. “Two birds, one stone. Because nothing is more valuable than the lives of our children. I think we owe it to our veterans, they’ve sacrificed so much for this country already, it is only right that we take care of them the way they have taken care of us.”