Looking at American gun culture

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - During his final days in office, President Barack Obama is searching for a way to reduce gun violence and the number of mass shootings our country.

As a result, the gun control debate is once again front and center.

This conversation is one as old as the our country itself, so we went back to the beginning, taking a closer look tonight at the constitutional language, when it comes to "the right to bear arms."

Beyond that, we wanted to know how gun culture is evolving in our country, and more importantly, how we are responding as Americans.

"Fort Hood. Binghamton. Aurora. Oak Creek. Newtown. The Navy yard. Santa Barbara. Charleston. San Bernadino. Too many," President Obama said.

In his controversial gun control speech, president Obama rattled of just a small fraction of the mass shootings we've seen in this country over the last few years, calling on the country for change.

"We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn't happen in other advanced countries. It's not even close. And as I've said before, somehow we've become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal," the president said.

Statistics for the number of mass shootings we've seen are wide ranging. Some data cite at least one every day of the year in 2015.

Others say there have only been 70-plus in the last three decades.

This debate has literally been going on for decades, really in it's founding at some level," said WMU Cooley Law School Constitutional Law professor Devin Schindler.

The conversation is stirring the debate on gun control once again--a debate experts say is as old as the Constitution itself.

"People misunderstand what the 2nd amendment means, and in general people misunderstand constitutional rights; the 2nd amendment are never absolute, there are always exceptions," Schindler said.

Schindler, tells Newschannel 3 the "right to bear arms" is often taken out of context. The amendment originated 1789 to balance federal and state power, and was updated in 2008 to also include a personal right.

"Firearms that existed in 1789--handguns and long rifles--you have a constitutional right to have those firearms for purposes of self-defense and hunting," Schindler said.

But more and more often we are seeing guns used outside the guidelines of the 2nd amendment, used in public places, to hurt, and even kill.

It's a problem the president is now calling an "epidemic."

"That's why we're here today. Not to debate the last mass shooting, but to do something to prevent the next one," Obama said.

While the debate rages on with no resolution, some are acting on this so called epidemic.

In 2012, Kalamazoo native Jason Russell took that task on here in West Michigan, founding Secure Education Consultants.

"It started by bringing my kids to school every day, and asking teachers how they would respond in an emergency, and the answers I was getting weren't acceptable," Russell said.

Since then, the father and former secret service agent, has seen demand explode; he is now working with a staff of 8, most working 7 days a week, all over the United States.

"We are working with a lot of businesses, manufacturers, churches, schools, child careswe are seeing the interest come from a variety of different industries," Russell said.

Russell says--unfortunately--mass gun violence is a part of our culture now, and rather than be afraid, it's best to be prepared.

"I think the big problem is people think it won't happen here, it won't happen to them, there is no place that thought the day before that is was going to happen to them, but it did," he said.

His team trains others to watch for warning signs, and how to respond in an emergency situation.

"You feel better when you think you know what to do," Russell said. "It gives me a little peace of mind, if something does happen these people are going to know how to respond, you are still going to worry about your kids not matter what."

In the meantime, Schindler says the conversation on gun rights, gun control, and gun culture will continue to evolve, and likely the law right along with it.

NC3: "Do you think this debate will ever end?"
Schindler: "No, of course not; this debate is going to last as long as the constitution will last."

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