Constitution Day discusses firearm policies

Lindsay Buchanan, Senior Writer

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Firearms were the topic of discussion at the recent Constitution Day event held in the auditorium of the Lee Nursing Building at Francis Marion University.

Guest speakers Rene Josey, former U.S. Attorney for S.C., and Ed Clements, solicitor for the 12th judicial circuit of S.C., co-hosted the event which is held annually in compliance with a federal regulation that mandates that any school accepting federal funds must hold an event celebrating Constitution Day every year.

Josey and Clements spoke to an audience of FMU students, faculty and staff as they discussed what constitutional basis exists for U.S. and state governments to regulate firearms in America.

Currently federal and state governments allow individuals to own guns, but restrict the capacities in which they can do so. Josey showed the audience what sections of the constitutions of both the federal government and S.C. state government have been interpreted to grant individuals the right to possess firearms.

By taking the audience through various landmark cases where judges began to rule in favor of placing restrictions on firearms, Josey was able to give the audience a historical time frame to reference. The most recent firearm restriction case involves an attempt by the city of Chicago to decrease local gun-related crimes. This attempt to ban firearms completely throughout the city was overturned earlier this year by the Supreme Court as being in violation of the Second Amendment.

Clements discussed the four areas where regulations currently exist and why each of them are important. Both federal and state governments have laws regulating what types of firearms can be possessed, who may possess them, where they may be possessed and how they may be used.

“There is a right to some degree for the government to regulate firearms,” Clement said. “There are people on both sides of this issue. I can think of many good common sense reasons for and against both sides. We should always strive to find middle ground without infringing on individual rights. There is a balancing act that exists there.”

Clements’ statement that there are people on both sides of this issue proved true when audience members were asked to indicate whether they were for or against stricter firearm restrictions by a show of hands. Although the majority of the audience seemed to be content with the current policies, there were a number of hands that rose in favor of and a number of hands that rose against stricter laws.

Bryan Wells, a member of the audience who was against any further restrictions, said that he thinks the current laws that restrict felons and persons diagnosed as mentally ill or unstable are reasonable. However, Wells, who served in the military as a Marine, said he is against any laws that would restrict people from being able to protect themselves.

“People should be able to protect themselves, and they can’t count on the government to do that all the time,” Wells said. “I don’t like any restrictions that regulate what [type of firearm] a person can own. Criminals are often able to get their hands on guns, protective gear and illegal ammunition. If they can do that, regardless of the restrictions, then law-abiding citizens should be able to get what they feel is necessary to protect themselves.”

Christopher Kennedy, assistant professor of history at FMU, was an audience member whose opinion was closer to the middle ground that Clements alluded to in his remarks. While he agreed that individuals have the right to own firearms, he said that there is a need for certain restrictions.

“As for stronger versus looser laws and regulations, I think the issue is in the type of guns,” Kennedy said. “Sporting guns for shooting events or hunting are fine, but do we really need to allow machine guns or assault rifles in the public’s hand? I think not.”

The event ended with a question and answer session where the speakers took questions from the audience on subjects ranging from self defense to laws for gun show merchants to the sentence given for straw purchasers (people who purchase guns for convicted felons in order to get around laws that restrict felons from ever owning a gun).

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Constitution Day discusses firearm policies