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In wake of Sandy Hook, gun control affects UB

Students react to new NY gun restrictions

Asst. Life Editor

Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013

Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 18:01


Courtesy of Associated Press

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs New York's Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act into law during a ceremony in the Red Room at the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, in Albany, N.Y. Also pictured from left are Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers). Behind Cuomo is Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy.

Student Association President Travis Nemmer, a former member of his high school rifle team and part of a family who owns and actively shoots guns, believes the latest New York State gun law regulations are counterproductive.

He believes the focus should be on the mental health of all Americans instead of focusing solely on gun laws. To him, the answer lies in eliminating the problems before they become problems.

The New York State Senate passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE) on Jan. 15, approving a new set of changes to gun regulation. Some New York Republicans in both the Senate and Assembly warned against moving too quickly to pass the new set of laws following the recent shootings that took place around the country and in New York State. Some UB students are also apprehensive about the stricter policies.

NY SAFE changed the maximum rounds of ammunition a magazine can hold from 10 to seven and the new law requires universal background checks for all gun sales, even if they are private person-to-person transactions. New York became the first state to pass tougher gun policies after the massacre with an assault rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14.

Nemmer thinks bad policy comes out of poor planning, and politicians want to make a name for themselves by being the first to make laws after a tragedy.

“[Politicians will] jump on the latest event and they’ll try to legislate something about it and they’ll ram that law through as quickly as possible, to the detriment of all people involved,” Nemmer said. “I don’t think we should make laws directly in relation to Newtown. What the U.S. does need is a very serious conversation about mental health.”

Nemmer believes mental health is the most important issue for America’s youth. He believes there should be more funding for school psychologists and more access to the drugs or therapies people might need.

“How about we make sure school psychologists aren’t the first ones on the chopping block when the budget cuts come?” Nemmer said. “How about we spend less money building multimillion-dollar football arenas for high schools when we have guidance counselors who are ignored, underpaid or don’t exist in some schools?”

Michael Calliste, a sophomore political science major and communication director for the College Democrats, doesn’t believe in elimination of the Second Amendment rights of Americans. Although he thinks guns are powerful, he doesn’t think all guns need to be banned – only the more powerful ones like assault rifles.

“We should have some weapons and some hunting guns,” Calliste said. “But pragmatically, you have to understand that lower guns means lower homicide and that’s all there is to it. We need to understand this is a thing we can do very simply if we have political capital and political will.”

James Ingram, a sophomore political science major and the communication director for the College Republicans, believes firearms are a major part of American history and culture.             “[Gun culture is] part of what makes us American,” Ingram said. “There are many people – 90 million gun owners – who are using them legally for hunting or sport. I don’t think that’s the problem because we’ve always had a gun culture in America.”

They all agree the major underlying issue is mental health treatments available for people of all ages. The NY SAFE bill also makes changes for mentally ill individuals. If a mental health professional decides someone is a potential risk to others or themselves, they would be required to alert the authorities, who would then have the ability to confiscate any firearms that person may own.

Calliste feels the guns available in today’s society are incredibly dangerous and should not be as readily available to people.

NY SAFE also includes a “Webster provision,” which is a mandatory life-without-parole prison sentence for anyone who murders a first responder. The provision was included following the Christmas Eve shooting in Webster, N.Y., in which two firefighters were shot and killed while responding to a fire.

“These things [like the Newtown shooting] happen,” Calliste said. “They’re aberrations, and they do happen. But we can lower the lethality. We can lower the frequency of them happening by stricter legislation, having less powerful weapons on the street, preventing access to military-grade weapons, as well as increasing mental health care.”

Calliste believes the current state of mental health in America is stigmatized. He said, as a culture, the American people believe it’s not OK to seek help. But he also believes the media is partly to blame for their coverage of events like the Newtown shooting.

“I find the media to be, at times, at least the mainstream, to be a little sensationalist,” Calliste said. “There is definitely a gun control issue here. There are definitely questions we have to ask moving forward, but at times, the media kept moving footage of the kids crying and of the school. It’s just a little insensitive at times. But they’re a business, and that’s how they do it.”

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