In the wake of one of the most tragic events in recent memory, many Americans are tired of the firearm status quo.
Many, however, are not.
Inevitably, almost everyone has an opinion on the topic of gun control. It is an issue which has been thrust forward into America's collective consciousness, especially since citizens are still mourning the Sandy Hook tragedy as a nation.
Many Americans want to see a drastic change in the nation's gun culture; others, however, believe that gun regulation is not the solution.
Jamestown resident Mark Fanale, for instance, believes that private ownership of firearms is a critical clause in the Bill of Rights, however, the Sandy Hook tragedy has made him reconsider whether civilians should have access to assault rifles.
"I used to be pretty staunch on my opinions about guns," said Fanale. "I have to admit, though, the recent events have sort of changed my mind about whether non-military personnel really need to have access to high-powered assault rifles."
According to Finale, he has been a gun owner his entire life, and was raised as a child to understand what harm can come if firearms are not used properly.
He said that he believes teaching children at a young age the good and harm that can come from firearms is essential to keeping gun violence to a minimum.
"I was taught from a young age how to use a gun, but along with that came gun responsibility," said Fanale.
There are many who believe that the solution to gun violence lies in the more rigid regulation of firearms.
"I (dislike) guns completely, but I know a lot of people enjoy them for sporting and hunting," said Destiny Gates of Randolph. "But I believe something needs to be done about them. People are reluctant to accept regulation as a solution, but frequent school shootings and (gun violence) are what we (face because of ease of gun access). Some progress needs to be made. End Internet sales on guns and work harder to eliminate the black market. Make every gun owner have to be certified in order to buy ammunition, so if you have a criminal record, you can't buy guns and or ammunition. If you are caught with a gun and you don't have a license or aren't certified to have one, then make that possession a criminal offense. I understand it won't solve all gun violence, but it is at least a step in the right direction."
And while gun control seems to be the current issue at hand in our nation, there are some who believe that tragedies such as the Sandy Hook massacre could be curbed in the future by addressing other underlying issues.
"In my opinion I do not think the solution will be gun or weapon control," said Kris Sellstrom, a Jamestown High School graduate. "If someone wants to kill people or destroy things, there are plenty of other ways to do it. We need to stop focusing on trying to establishing a false sense of security at the cost of our freedoms and put our resources toward the detection and treatment of psychotic people. Humans are the biggest hole in any security system or safety program. We need to work to better understand people and what causes them to do these horrific things. If we can determine underlying causes, find a method of detection and create treatments to help these people, our society will be happier, healthier, safer and free."
While everyone is entitled to have an opinion about what the next step may be, it is our politicians' responsibility to determine what stances to take and establish legislation which reflects those stances.
"The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary is our greatest fear and nightmare," said state Sen. Catharine Young (R,C,I-Olean). "Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and neighbors as they deal with this unspeakable horror. While this tragedy has sparked a debate on the national level about reinstating the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban, there already is a permanent assault weapons ban in New York state that has been in place since the year 2000 - some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country already are in effect in our state.
"The vast majority of gun crimes committed in New York are with illegal guns," continued Sen. Young. "Stronger enforcement of existing laws would curb gun violence. While there are many lawmakers, especially from downstate, who want to use this tragedy to push new laws that restrict responsible, law-abiding gun owners, I believe a common-sense, thoughtful and deliberate approach should be taken. A few of the ideas being discussed in Albany include passing stricter penalties for crimes involving guns, and establishing a uniform statewide registry for pistol permits to replace the current county-by-county registry. But simply focusing on guns is a mistake.
"The most important discussion that must happen is about treating mental illness," urged Sen. Young. "Too many people are not getting the help they need and are falling through the cracks. There are several contributing factors that are emerging about the massacre, but the murderer's mental state seems to be the overwhelming problem. Reports indicate that Adam Lanza had a severe mental disturbance. Untreated serious mental illness is the root cause of many of these heinous incidents, whether someone opens fire on a classroom or shopping mall, shoves a person in front of a subway train, or viciously stabs a victim. I sponsor legislation to strengthen Kendra's Law to protect the public and allow people with severe mental illness who are a danger to themselves or others to get the help they need, and I will be pushing to get this measure passed in 2013."
However, Sen. Young would like to see a more urgent focus on protecting school-age children, in general.
"We also must reprioritize school safety," said Sen. Young. "Our children and school personnel need to be kept safe. Federal Justice Department funds for school security programs such as training, security equipment and police resources have lapsed over the past two years. A separate program that put police officers inside schools was discontinued a few years earlier. These resources were established after the Columbine school shooting, and the federal government should restore those funds. Having police officers in our schools makes a big difference. For several years, many of our districts in the region were protected by school resource officers. These officers are specially trained law enforcement personnel who serve as positive role models, mentors and problem solvers, while making sure the school is a safe learning environment. School resource officers always have been a high priority for Senate Republicans. Unfortunately, state funding for school resource officers was eliminated by Gov. Paterson and the New York City-controlled legislators in 2009-10 when Senate Republicans were in the minority. I strongly support reinstating and expanding the school resource officer program, and believe school safety will be a major topic of discussion and action in Albany."