Last year, Maryland enacted a law submitting the sale of all handguns to review by a panel of experts, legislators and citizens to determine whether the guns are "Saturday night specials" and should therefore be banned from sale in Maryland. Other states around the country have proposed laws restricting so-called assault rifles and semiautomatic weapons on the grounds that they serve little sporting function and are used primarily in the commission of crimes.
The National Rifle Association and other organizations argue that these laws are infringements on the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which stipulates the right of the people to bear arms and maintain a militia. Others say that this amendment only applies to those serving in the military and not to the civilian population.
Do you think gun control laws are necessary? What should those laws say? How does this relate to the Second Amendment?
I really think gun control laws are necessary so that people do not get carried away in the kind of guns they buy. We need to enforce these laws throughout the United States, but concentrating in the District of Columbia. The only kinds of guns that are necessary are shotguns and certain kinds of rifles, which should only be used for hunting. The M-16 and other automatic weapons should be given only to the police. I think people in homes should count on security alarms and technology of this sort. Handguns should not be sold. We have no use for them.
Automatic weapons should only be available to the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, etc. Also, 22-caliber rifles shouldn't be made; the only thing they are good for is target shooting. You can't kill any sort of hunting animal with them. It is just another gun we have no use for except crime. JEFF SPAIDE Bowie
Gun control laws are necessary, but they should not infringe on rights granted by the Constitution. The owner of a weapon is obligated to use it responsibly. This means that restrictions on "special types" of guns (i.e. pistols and automatic weapons) should be lifted.
Gun control laws should not focus on the weapon, but on the owner. All weapons, from hunting rifles to automatic weapons, should not be sold on a walk-in/walk-out basis. Local or state governments should enforce licensing gun owners. When a person buys a gun, they should first be licensed by the government to own that gun. Issuance of this license should be based on a person's past police record. Any convictions on this record should make a person ineligible to own "special types" of guns.
However, you cannot take away the right of any American to possess a gun for hunting purposes. There are still areas in this country where people can be found who live strictly off the land. For these people hunting is a necessity. FORREST YOUNG Oxon Hill
Being a citizen of a drug-infested community, I believe gun control laws are necessary due to the fact that many minors are in possession of guns because of the drug wars. These minors carry these weapons and act on impulse when they are angry or trying to be cool. They do not value human life at all.
I believe that new laws should be made under which anyone under the age of 21 caught with a firearm would be arrested and fined. It should also be illegal for anyone to possess an unregistered weapon. Finally, any type of gun more powerful than a semiautomatic handgun should be banned.
People might argue about the Second Amendment. However we must keep in mind when this amendment was written. At that time, people were not carrying machine guns and killing each other for a few dollars. They were not killing each other over a girl or just because they did not like someone. Also, at the time the Second Amendment was written, people needed firearms in order to put food on their tables. How many of us need guns in order to shoot squirrels for dinner each night? CHARO ROBINSON Forestville
"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." These are the words that were penned in the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. Now there is a law in Washington, D.C., stating that the possession of a handgun is illegal. This law is a direct violation of the rights that were given to the people in the Constitution.
In recent years, it is true that handguns have been used for malice, but if someone wants to harm someone else, they will -- if not with a handgun, then they will find some other way; another firearm, a knife or some sharp object. If handguns were made illegal for our safety, then the law would not be completely effective. MARY BETH FOWLER Capitol Christian
The issue of gun control legislation would be of less importance if tighter license and permit requirements were enacted. Basically, if it is harder for citizens to obtain guns legally, then there won't be as many people carrying guns who don't know how to use them.
The Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms and to keep a militia. Even though it isn't specific, the elastic clause allows Congress to make or change laws according to the needs of the times. Even though we have the right to bear arms, if the law needs to be changed because of crime, then I say change it. The Constitution was written in a different time; as times change, so do needs.
The issue would also be less crucial if the government banned mail-order guns and weapons. A large number of guns are in the hands of criminals and citizens who don't know how to use them because of the ease with which we can obtain guns. Maybe if it were harder for people to do legally, there would be more people with guns who know how to use them. WILLIAM REYNOLDS Northwestern
Throughout U.S. history, American citizens have had the right to bear arms. This right has proven to have been the key factor when our country was young and people needed guns to survive in the new frontiers. However, after 200 years, our society has drastically changed. In a modern industrialized society, individuals have no need to bear arms.
The easy access to guns and today's illegal drug trade have created havoc in many large cities, as evidenced in the rapidly escalating murder rates. Steps toward placing restrictions on buying and selling guns offer the best hope for restoring order.
There are many people who believe such restrictions are unconstitutional because they would violate the Second Amendment, but today our society no longer expects its militia to furnish their own guns! EDDIE ROSE Bishop McNamara
Gun control will not solve the problem of the irresponsible use of guns. A law like this will only restrict the people who know how to use a gun in the right way. All the misusers will find some way or other to get hold of these weapons. In fact, this law only puts a bandage on the problem; it does not heal it.
The problem is with people's hearts. As long as they hate and rebel, a law will be of no use. The only solution is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can bring change in the human heart. SHEREE MILLER Lanham Christian Students Speak Out: Topic for Dec. 20
It has become a common complaint that the holiday season has become too commercialized and too prolonged. Stores often begin to show Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanza displays before Halloween. Community groups begin celebrating year-end holidays before the Thanksgiving turkeys are gone. The day after Thanksgiving has become known for the holiday shopping frenzy.
Do you think the holiday season has become too commercialized and too long? What do you think is the "true meaning" of the holidays?
Written responses should be no more than 150 words in length and typed or written legibly. We are also interested in receiving political-style cartoons on the topic. Cartoons should be drawn on posterboard.
Students should submit their responses by Dec. 17 with name, age, grade and school included on the work to: High School Honors, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071
We will publish selected responses in Dec. 27 editions of the Maryland Weekly.