Among other things, I am Firearms Instructor.
When I tell people this, it’s usually a 50/50 split as to whether their eyes are filled with fear or interest. Minds have been conditioned by the media and social biases that “Guns are bad.” When I counsel students at the college where I work who are starting their education in legal studies, I ask them a few questions (this works a bit better during an election year):
1) Do you think guns should be banned?
2) The guy who held the sign “You’re a Liar” in the front row of an Obama/Bush rally — should he have been escorted out?
3) Should a person be allowed to wear their pants low so you can see their boxers?
4) Are DUI checkpoints a good idea?
Each of these issues deals with specific individual freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, some of which have been compromised, but all of which usually (8 times out of 10) solicit an expected knee-jerk response from the person I’m asking. So, here is my plea to you — the incoming 1L class:
Wait. When you’re asked a question such as the one above, bite your tongue and prevent yourself from giving the “right” answer… The “right” answer being common sense. Instead, take a few moments and think, not just about the rights of the people and public safety, but of the rights of the individual. Remember that “the people” are comprised of individuals and each of us has inalienable rights — remember your Con Law case studies… Once you’ve taken everything into account, then give the “correct” answer.
Express. When you have a spirited debate, pot shots are bound to happen, but I beg that, while you should debate and defend your position with zeal, that you do so as civily as possible. Resorting to foul language can instantly destroy any credibility you may have built and you will most certainly loose any respect gained by your opponent.
Love. Our Constitution is a wonderfully glorious thing — it laid the foundations for our individual freedoms and our way of living. If, at this very moment, you believe that jump-out squads and curfews are good for public safety; if you believe someone who says, “Fuck” in public should be cited with disorderly conduct; if you think that police should be allowed to require you to show them your ID at will… I beg of you to learn all of the reasons to hate these ideas and love your Constitution and freedoms it provides you. Research the case history and learn WHY obvious criminals are let go because an officer illegally siezed a weapon and cherrish that. Understand that the laws that let suspects off on “technicalities” aren’t just there for them, but that every single day they protect people like you.
Once you’ve done this, if you still believe your previous notions were correct then, by all means, return to them. You’ll go back, not only with an appreciation for the other side, but you’ll be better able to defend your position because you will understand your opponent and their line of reasoning.
Good luck on your Fall semester, my friends… keep up with your reading and remember to challenge your mind every single day.