By Neven Jones
Americans do not need more gun laws, but they need more enforcement of existing gun laws, Jerry O’Connor, physics, engineering, architecture and engineering technologies chair, said Oct. 1 during a Hot Potato lecture at the Methodist Student Center.
He shared the first weekly Hot Potato lunch series of the semester with Dr. Paul Wilson, former political science chair and director of the Murguía Learning Institute.
Political science Professor Asslan Khaligh invited Wilson and O’Connor to debate gun control and functioned as the moderator.
For the past 30 years, Khaligh has helped choose the topics and guest speakers for the Hot Potato series, which cover controversial topics 12:15 p.m.-1:15 p.m. Tuesdays.
To explain his view on the danger of gun laws, O’Connor said that if a violent person is stalking a woman and she tries to get a gun, she could die before the required three-day waiting period is over, O’Connor said.
“Passing laws can have devastating consequences as well as not passing them,” O’Connor said.
Gun laws are needed and valid, Khaligh said.
There will always be a group who will not respect the laws, and that has been true in history, Khaligh said.
Wilson said the National Rifle Association has scared people to increase gun sales.
“I think we focus too much on the crime issue with this problem,” he said. “If you own a weapon in your home, you’re presenting a danger, especially to children.”
He said people are more focused on the crime aspect of guns rather than the public health aspect.
When handguns are responsible for three of four suicide cases, it’s a public health issue, Wilson said.
Most criminals don’t get their guns from gun shops or gun shows, O’Connor said. They get them from family or friends or they steal them.
Wilson, a duck hunter, said he owns a shotgun that holds five shells.
Under the law, he has to mechanically alter it to hold three shells, to respect the duck population. “Can’t we do that for the human population?” Wilson asked.
José Benitez, mechanical engineering sophomore, said a person could go to the West Side and get a gun for $100.
If the government controlled the sellers and enforced the laws already in place, wouldn’t that actually make everything else work better, Benitez asked.
Khaligh asked the panelists if they agree that people need more firearms training.
O’Connor said there are people who own firearms who have not been adequately trained.
One of the reasons the NRA was established was for firearms training, O’Connor said. The NRA has training programs for all classes of weapons and a training program for children.
The organization promotes gun safety and teaches children what to do when they see a firearm, he said.
O’Connor said people have an irrational fear about guns.
Guns are not like viruses, bacteria or living things that will propagate on their own and do damage that way, O’Connor said.
“Guns don’t do anything by themselves,” O’Connor said.
Wilson said, “Automobiles are not sentient creatures and they cause death and so we pass laws to reduce that chance of injury and death. So we can require seat belts on cars, why can’t we require the analogous things on firearms?”
O’Connor said while smart guns are a good concept, they have been tried in a few places and do not work well. The mechanism of a firearm is very sensitive.
There has to be a symbolic gesture that as a society limits are defined on this issue as limits are defined on other freedoms, Wilson said.
“You put a lock on a door to keep an honest person honest. There’s symbolic value in these things,” he said.
Wilson is a hunter and gun owner. O’Connor declined to answer gun owner.
The topic for the next Hot Potato lecture Tuesday is immigration reform.
The Oct. 15 lecture “Does Equal Really Mean Equal: GLBT Issues,” was canceled and will be rescheduled because speaker Richard Farias, director of student life, was ill.