An Inside Take on the Right to Bear Arms

Gun (X -
Sunday, June 22, 2008

It will be a few more days until we hear what the Supreme Court thinks about the D.C. gun ban, but I already know how one majority would rule on regulating guns. My English composition students at Webster Correctional Institution in Cheshire, Conn., responded to a February survey with candid answers on guns, having been, as one of them put it, on "both ends of the barrel." Of the 50 surveyed, most serving time for drug-related offenses, 42 thought that while "gun purchases should be strictly controlled and monitored," guns are necessary for self-defense and should not be banned outright, as handguns are in the District -- a question the court is set to rule on this month in D.C. v. Heller . Here are some verbatim excerpts from the survey.

-- Joseph H. Cooper, who teaches media law and ethics at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut

Have you ever been shot, or shot at, with a firearm? If so, provide details :

Thirty-one inmates answered "Yes," and only three of them said the shots had been fired by law enforcement officers.

"By enemy's from a foe who was trying to hurt or possible kill me"

"Street rivals at a party got into a fight he lost came back and shot at me"

"People around the neighborhood I had problems with"

"Shot by someone from the street"

"Had a argument with other guys they pull out a gun and started shooting ran to the house they shot up the house"

"A person decided to shoot at me because I told him to slow down on my street"

"I was shot by someone robbing me for money after they took my money they shot me"

Have you ever fired a gun? If yes, provide details -- including how you came into the possession of the weapon:

Forty-one inmates said that they had fired a gun. Some wrote about hunting, but many more wrote of resorting to the use of a weapon to deal with "enemies," "bogeys" or "terroristas."

"Brought it on the streets and i only test fired it to get a feel for it"

"I got the gun from a friend and shot it outside a nightclub"

"I bought a .380 for $100. When the police fired at the car I was in I didn't want to die and fired back at them."

"Brought for protection, used it several times [it was a] Saturday nite special"

But some students did seem to back some gun control measures, with 42 of the 50 in favor of licensing (for any and all guns), waiting periods and pre-purchase mental competency tests. One student summed up his position best in a written composition on the subject:

"I myself have been on both ends of the barrel. Neither one is pleasant. One gets a feeling of power and carelessness, and that can end up with someone wounded or killed. The outcome then is one person being judged by twelve and the other being carried out by six. I don't want to be either case."

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