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 have proposed laws restricting so-called assault rifles and semiautomatic weapons on the grounds that these weapons 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?

We do have a gun control problem here in America. Part of the problem exists because we are afraid -- and we have a right to be. Guns are available almost everywhere to anyone who wants to buy them . . . this includes minors, idiots and people with criminal records. Anyone who wants a gun can walk into a store and buy one. You don't even have to go out of your home; guns are available through mail-order catalogues, as well. The gun that killed President Kennedy was ordered from a catalogue. In other countries, the ownership of a gun is forbidden or licensed.

Guns are a big business in the U.S. It is somewhat understandable to protect yourself against assault or robbery. However, the average person is not adept at handling a gun, so accidental gun deaths are another common tragedy. Every poll taken in the United States has shown that Americans are strongly in favor of handgun registration or a ban against their sale or possession.

There are lots of guns out in the hands of crazy, irresponsible people. Congressmen and senators should pass strong gun laws. If people wish to protect their homes, there are other things they can do, such as installing a security system, or getting a dog. KELLY SMITH Gar-Field

Living in a society where crime is commonplace makes gun control laws almost inevitable. Assault weapons and semiautomatic weapons, whose sole purpose is to take the life of a human being, should not be made available to the public. If citizens wish to protect themselves, they should be able to, but not with a weapon made only for killing. Full background checks should be made on any person wishing to buy a gun.

Making gun control laws would in no way infringe upon the rights given in the Second Amendment. I don't believe the framers of the Constitution meant for citizens to carry machine guns. Lawmakers must look into the Second Amendment and realize that "the right to bear arms" isn't the right to use deadly weapons meant only for the death of humans. KRISTY HENDERSON Chancellor

Gun control laws are a direct violation of the Second Amendment. As Smericans and under the provisions of the Constitution, we have the right to hold and bear arms. Any law or act passed restricting that right would be an infringement.

With the ownership of any gun comes the responsibility for its correct use. A gun holds the power of death and destruction, yet is often a protection and source of security. As Americans, the plight of our inner cities and the twisted ways of our people sometimes make an equalizer necessary.

As with all forms of power, the gun is often subject to misuse and abuse. Many victims lives have been needlessly taken away and the lives of family and friends shattered. Restrictive laws passed in hopes of eliminating these tragedies have proved ineffective. To those who want to own a gun, and to those who would do harm with one, the law is no obstacle. Sooner or later, they will find a gun.

A possible alternative for the diminishing of fire-arm related deaths would be stricter, more severe punishment rendered to gun abusers. The right to gun purchase and ownership should not be violated, although education about forms of gun abuse should be encouraged. MATT REICH Osbourn Park

What? They're trying to take another one of our Constitutional rights? What is it this time? Our right to bear arms? Well, here we go again.

First of all, I would like to explain to those government officials who do not know that the laws Congress makes only apply to civilized, law-abiding citizens. Burglars, murderers and drug dealers really don't care about the law -- they make their own. It doesn't matter whether you ban certain guns or all guns, criminals will continue to get their hands on them. There is no law that can prevent a criminal from getting a gun. But our right to bear arms could help prevent us from becoming victims.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution gives the people of the United States the right to bear arms. There is no implied meaning that says it only applies to the those in the military.

Guns make criminals think twice about attempting to commit a crime. The threat alone is enough to keep some criminals off the street; a weapon might never have to be used at all. Of course we shouldn't have to take such precautions, but in some places, unfortunately, our society almost demands it.

The point is, no matter whether they are for sport, show or protection, we have the right to bear arms and it should stay that way. JEREL WILLIAMS Woodbridge

Maryland and those states banning certain types of weapons are perfectly correct in doing so. First of all, the Second Amendment is not violated by such gun-banning laws. This amendment was written in order to form a well-organized militia to defend this country and to give the members of this militia the right to bear arms. However, in an age when we have organized troups, there is no need for this citizens' militia or for the right of the people to bear arms.

Laws are necessary to maintain order within a given society and gun restriction laws are no exception. Guns, when in the wrong hands, destroy order within a society. Laws are needed determining those people who can own weapons, for what reasons, and which types of weapons can be owned. Without this organizational control, terroristic events would become a daily routine. It is up to the legislature to prevent this from happening. MARLA BARRESE Osbourn

Gun control laws are necessary to an extent. Anyone should be able to go into a gun store and buy a gun, but the paperwork should be completed, then records would show who owns what guns.

If only an elite group of people were allowed to own guns, then the number of illegally sold guns would increase. This would mean law enforcement agencies would have no way of knowing who owns which guns.

Basically, gun control laws are necessary, but overuse and or misuse of such laws could be hazardous to our nation. A.M. Prince William Juvenile Detention Home Students Speak Out

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