UB professors talk gun control
Published: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 3, 2013 13:03
UB professors have differing opinions on the highly debated federal gun control laws proposed by President Barack Obama. The main points of the federal proposal include expanded criminal background checks, the limiting of magazine sizes to 10 rounds, providing money for schools to develop emergency response plans and the financing of more mental health programs for young people.
New York was the first state to pass the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE) on Jan. 15, which approved a new set of state regulations, including the maximum rounds of ammunition changing from 10 to seven and universal background checks for all gun sales.
Professor Carole Embertonwants Americans to consider the “hidden history” of the Second Amendment.
Emberton, an assistant professor of history, specializes in the Second Amendment and the understanding of guns in the United States. The Second Amendment as it functioned when it was created during the late 1780s is a far cry from the way present-day Americans view it, she said.
In the late 18th century, Southern slaveholders were in favor of the amendment because they worried Congress would employ local militias to fight Native Americans and the British around the country and in Canada, Emberton said. Slaveholders needed the Second Amendment to keep local militias nearby, so they could prevent slave insurrections, according to Emberton.
“In those debates, it was not about an individual’s right to have a firearm, but who was going to have control of these state militias,” Emberton said. “Today, when people talk about the Second Amendment the clause about the militia [is ignored] and it’s really about the right to bear arms.”
With the rise in the production of guns after the Civil War explained, the gun industry used its wealth to donate to the political process, Emberton.
The gun industry is an obstacle when it comes to reformation. The political system is so dependent upon money, and the gun industry is incredibly wealthy, Emberton said. The gun rights lobby has thus far been effective in “shutting down any talk or entertaining of the possibility of any sort of combination of gun laws and better mental health treatment,” she said.
Emberton believes this is one reason there hasn’t been a conversation about how to prevent gun violence and protect citizens.
She said guns did not always have the “protected, exalted status” they have in present-day America. During the 19th century, there was a multitude of regulatory measures on types of firearms and ammunitions at the state and local level. In the early 19th century, there were no automatic weapons, so guns did not pose the same public safety risk, Emberton said.
As someone who works in an education environment that has increasingly seen mass shootings occur, Emberton hopes, as horrible as they have been, they will spark a breaking point in our political culture.
“We can now open things up for discussion and try to think about reasonable ways that we can try to deal with this problem because there is a problem,” Emberton said.
Professor Steven Dubovskythinks President Obama’s proposals are a superficial attempt at protecting citizens from unpredictable violence.
Dubovsky, chairman of the psychiatry department at UB’s School of Medicine, agrees a national dialogue about the high murder rate can save lives.
Dubovsky is an expert on disaster response, extreme events and psychiatric illness, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He referred to Obama’s proposals as “cotton candy” legislation.
“You can prepare it really quickly … and it seems to taste really good at first and all you get from it is an upset stomach and some cavities,” Dubovsky said. “It’s a very poorly thought-out scheme, but it is obviously popular with his political supporters.”
Dubovsky does not think Obama’s proposals will help limit mass shootings. Tougher gun laws have no evidence of effectiveness, according to Dubovsky. One thing that will save lives, he believes, is looking at how people obtain a higher level of respect and appreciation for each other.
The problem, Dubovsky believes, is the violent culture in the United States modeled through national, regional and local leaders. He believes this sets a national tone of not valuing other people and their opinions. It attributes to individuals viewing others as “lower” than them. This is the attitude of many people within our society, according to Dubovsky.