Assault rifle discovery raises questions for Purdue students, city
Publication Date: 01/24/08
I have noisy neighbors; that I can deal with.
And if I discovered one of my neighbors had pot in his or her apartment, honestly, I probably wouldn't fret.
But last week, police found a loaded AK-47 assault rifle in one of my neighbors' apartment. And that I fret about.
West Lafayette Police Chief Jason Dombkowski said the gun was loaded with 30 rounds, with additional magazines of ammunition nearby, "ready to go."
Police responded to a noise complaint at a sophomore's apartment, where they found drugs and drug paraphernalia. Dombkowski said that during a subsequent search, police found not only the AK-47, but nearly two pounds of marijuana and $3,800 in cash. Which one of these things is not like the other?
As of right now, the student is facing only drug charges. Why are there no charges concerning the weapon? Answer: The gun was probably in the residence legally.
I spoke with Dombkowski last week and he said the state requires permits for handguns but not necessarily for other weapons, such as rifles. Because the federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004, if you can pass a background check, you can legally own such automatic guns.
Several other states, including New York and New Jersey, have enacted legislation banning the sale of assault weapons. But Indiana has extremely lax gun laws with no such provision.
We don't need to get into the cliche debate of general gun control, but I hope few would argue the need for automatic assault weapons within city limits.
Yes, the Constitution protects the right to bear arms, but we know that is not a license to hold exceptionally dangerous weapons such as bazookas, machine guns or assault weapons. As the federal government decreed in 1994, assault weapons just don't belong in our communities.
I urge the city council to further investigate this matter and consider, at least, passing a measure requiring all owners of assault weapons to be registered with the police department. I would personally advocate a ban of such guns within the city.
It is the responsibility of city officials to do what they can to prevent another Virginia Tech incident; mandatory registration would be a logical step.
A second cause for my concern is whether other people knew about the gun in the student's apartment. Although it is legal to hold such a weapon, that doesn't mean it's right.
In New York City, there's a slogan, "If you see something, say something." Every member of the Purdue community needs to follow this guideline. If your friend has such a gun, is doing drugs or things that just aren't right, tell them you think so.
I praise the police department in their success of discovering last week's situation, but police need our help and our eyes too.
The old saying goes "Good fences make good neighbors."
Let's keep that from becoming "Kevlar walls and bullet-proof windows ..."
Mike Westervelt is a junior in the College of Liberal Arts. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org