Art Callaham: Students share thoughts on freedom, gun control

June 09, 2013|By ART CALLAHAM

I recently wrote a column about the U.S. Constitution, and 750 words is not enough to explore the nuances of this ageless document. In my marketing class at Hagerstown Community College/Grace Academy (it’s a dual credit class; students get both high school and college credit for the course), we were talking about the ethical and moral responsibilities of citizens in relation to marketing.

However, talk turned to ethical and moral responsibilities of citizens when it comes to things like our rights and freedoms under the U.S. Constitution. I have a class of five foreign exchange students and four students from the United States. I also have two students who audit the class on a regular basis, giving me six U.S. and five foreign students for a total of 11. 

My first question to the foreign students (three from Korea and two from China) was: Do you have the right to own a gun in your country? All of the students answered no. Who has the right to (own, carry or possess) a gun in your country? In both instances, Korean or Chinese, the answer, in its simplest form, was the government (police, military and government employees).

Of course, for the U.S. students, the answer to the first question was yes, and the answer to the second question was the general public, with some restrictions, and the government.

An interesting dichotomy: Two nations (Korea and China) do not give their citizens the right to “keep and bear arms” while our nation (United States) does.

On to the next questions. First, for the Korean and Chinese students: Do you feel safer in your home country (where the general population is denied the right to have guns) than you feel here in the U.S.? The answer was yes.

One of the Korean students made an interesting observation: “When I first arrived here (in the United States), I went into a Walmart to buy some milk and cookies, and I saw these guns. I was shocked.”

For the U.S. students (all from this area) the answer to the question about safety was mixed. Two of the students’ families do not have guns in their homes; the other four do. Three of the students (one with guns in their home and the two whose families did not have guns in their homes) indicated that they did not feel safer in this country because the general population is allowed to have guns. The other three U.S. students indicated a sense of safety ranging from “home security” to opposing the threat of “anarchy” and government takeover.

The last question to the foreign group concerned “freedom”: Do you feel that you have less freedom because there is no right to keep and bear arms in your country?  All felt they had the same freedoms that we have in the United States. Having or not having guns was not relevant to the question of freedom.

The U.S. students, to a person, believed that having the “right” to own or possess a gun was indicative of personal freedom. The issue over “rights” or “restrictions” was a matter of black and white to the U.S. students.  Simply put, they see a very distinct difference between rights and control. The issue to them centered on how much control.

“No one has a right to privately own a fully armed tank” was one comment. You have a right to own a gun, but the government reserves the right to control certain aspects concerning “type,” “size,” “caliber,” “number” and such of the guns you own. 

“No crazy people should be allowed to own a gun — of any kind” one student said. Sure, out of the mouths of young people come the simplest truths, yet we have to be careful in our definition of the modifiers, like what is “crazy.”

There are no conclusions here, merely a report of statements by young people (the people who will rule this world in the future). Their comments might ring the bells of truth and freedom in generations to come.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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