Second Amendment panel discusses gun rights, safety

Gianna Holiday

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Discussion on campus regarding the Second Amendment provided students, faculty and staff with an opportunity to analyze the amendment in terms of how it relates to gun safety, gun laws as well as the history behind it.

Legal experts, law enforcement, social justice educators and activists discussed the amendment on a panel. The panel also analyzed the politics and policies of gun rights, gun control, mental health issues and safety.

Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman spoke on the panel with Chris Laws, an App State alumnus, who is the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation special agent in charge of the Northwestern District.

“The language in the Second Amendment is interesting. It’s broad enough that you can interpret it in a number of ways,” said Marian Williams, criminal justice professor in the Department of Government and Justice Studies. “Regardless of political affiliation or about how you feel about gun rights, it can be interpreted in a lot of different ways.”

Different aspects of the debate and analysis on the Second Amendment were presented at the panel. Williams said the information was presented in a way for guests to come to the program and see if any personal ideas or attitudes were changed or reinforced. 

In the wake of several school shootings, including one that took place at UNC Charlotte in May, gun safety is an ongoing debate both on and off college campuses.

“The Second Amendment is one of those things that have evolved over time, so I think that it’s important for us to understand it in the context in which the Framers of the Constitution wrote it and consider it under the context of today, and ask how it’s still relevant today,” said Heather Ondercin, professor of American politics at App State. “We have to ask what that means when we balance social order and individual freedoms.”

Onderich said for the average person, their partisan identity has become more important to them and shapes their opinions on topics such as gun control.

“With the second amendment having become so politicized, it means that there is this growing divide amongst people and in the current political climate that does not often produce good compromise or good legislation,” Onderich said.