“Pew! Pew!”

America doesn’t have a lot going for itself right now. We aren’t the best educated nation, we don’t have the most competitive economy, we have some of the worst income inequality in the world, and the likelihood of social mobility is appalling. So for all of our not-quite-top-of-the-class statuses, at least we can claim that we have the most guns per capita and the most gun death rates!

Okay, so maybe the number of people falling to bullets isn’t something to brag about, but you wouldn’t be able to tell based on the enthusiasm groups of people have for defending their right to own assault weapons without background checks.

This guy looks patriotic to me.

This guy looks patriotic to me.

I’m not trying to imply that pro-gun groups like the NRA want record gun deaths each year. Gun owners are not inherently violent people, neither are the interest groups that they are a part of. It’s pure coincidence that the NRA came into being shortly after the KKK was recognized by Congress as a terrorist organization in 1871

Totally different, you can see my face.

Totally different, you can see my face.

But seriously, in the modern day the NRA is not a racist organization, nor does it endorse shooting anyone besides criminals. In fact, a majority of the NRA’s membership comes from discounts at shooting ranges for members. If you own a gun and you like to shoot it, it’s a really good idea to join the NRA because of the financial benefits. There are also political benefits if you run for office.

The major problem with groups like the NRA is that they utilize slippery-slope logic every time someone proposes legislation that has something to do with gun regulations. A majority of Americans are in favor of background checks before rifles are given out. A majority of Americans are in favor of eliminating the right to assault weapons and hollow-point bullets. A majority of Americans are in favor of  restricting bullet magazines so that a mass murderer can only kill ten people before having to reload. Yet when any of these proposals hit the floor, pro-gun groups are in an uproar asserting that any new regulation will result in the government coming to our homes and confiscating our guns.

Let’s think about the logic behind that. If banning assault weapons leads to the government taking away all our weapons, then couldn’t we argue in the reverse that if we allow assault weapons then we should allow any weapons (including nuclear warheads). The Constitution says “right to bear arms shall not be infringed” so I guess I can have nuclear arms and no one can fault me for it.

If you actually read the second amendment in it’s entirety you can see that it’s been misread for quite a while: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The second amendment is the only amendment in the Constitution that states it’s purpose. The right to bear arms shall not be infringed in the context that the arms are used within a well-regulated militia.

You guys don't count.

You guys don’t count.

The Supreme Court, led by “Originalist” thinkers such as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have ruled the right to bear arms as an individual right rather than a collective right based on “American Tradition”. In D.C. v. Heller the Supreme Court ruled that a law couldn’t be passed to require guns to be unloaded or bound by a trigger lock when not in use. Scalia and Thomas took part in another decision that ruled against partial birth abortions because of how disturbing the procedure is. I agree with them on that, but they must have failed to consider how disturbing it is to find a toddler’s head blown off because their dad left their gun loaded without a trigger lock in the living room.

It turns out that owning a gun results in much more risk than benefits. Family members living in a house with a gun are far more likely to be victims of gun-related violence. But I am digressing.

The main point is that there are people in the government right now that are trying to propose ways in which we can stem the tide of gun violence in the United States. President Obama recently pointed out that over 1,000 people have died due to gun violence since the Sandy Hook School shooting. Some people may argue that this is just political posturing, but the family and friends of those thousand people would probably disagree. America has a problem and there are people trying to fix it.

I don’t think that American citizens need to have assault weapons. To those who would argue that “we need to match what criminals have” I would argue that America doesn’t need to have shootouts at noon in the town square every time someone tries to do something stupid. I think that everyone should have to go through a background check before buying a gun. To those who would argue that “background checks are inconvenient” I would argue that going to a theater and getting shot before the movie starts is inconvenient too. I think that a magazine should have a limit on the number of bullets it can carry. To those who would argue, “We won’t be able to protect our neighborhoods as well,” I would point out; “Because we do such a good job of that in the first place…”

Let's try to cut down on the violence.

Let’s try to cut down on the violence.

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Leading at CNU

I’ve found that groups and organizations around CNU are always looking for people to take leadership positions. In fraternities, singing groups, volunteer organizations, and sports teams, leaders are always valuable and desirable. I feel lucky to have become deeply involved in various organizations. In my commitment to these organizations I feel a closer connection to my fellow members and the CNU campus.

I am currently fulfilling my final requirements for CNU’s Leadership Minor. Through the classes I have taken in the subject, I have been challenged to look at organizations and groups through the lens of leadership. This doesn’t just involve watching the president of every organization, this involves focusing yourself to push the organization to be better regardless of the position you are in.

In Phi Alpha Delta (the Pre-Law Fraternity), Trebled Youth (an A Capella group) and even in CHECs (the student judicial appeal) I have seen some of my peers step up to take positions when there is a need for them. In high school it was always frustrating to see individuals pursue leadership positions for the glory or the resume-fodder. At CNU I have seen responsible people take on leadership positions when they see a need, and they feel that they can do the best job. It is for this reason that many of CNU’s clubs and activities are very well-run.

The most visible way that this leadership maturity can be seen is in students’ willingness to take positions like secretary, and treasurer in a group and still deliver their 100% even if the position does not offer them bragging rights. I have seen students defer greater leadership positions that they want to other people that they think can do a better job because they want what is best for the organization.

If you have members of student groups and organizations that care as much about the group as the president of the organization then you have a highly effective group. CNU is filled with these organizations. If you take your time to find a group that follows the same passions that you do, you will find that you become a leader in the group in no time at all.

Valentine’s Day

It’s that day again.

You know, that day where all the single guys, all the single girls, and most of the guys who are in relationships groan and complain about the dumbest of holidays. 

Valentine’s Day is only as important as your enthusiasm lets it. If you want to go all out to make someone’s day, then Valentine’s Day can be pretty fun. If you don’t care then Valentine’s Day just turns into another one of those Catholic martyr holidays about guys who died horrible deaths thousands of years ago.

Image

         I’m not lion when I say, it was harsh…

And those that detest the holiday find special irony in the fact that the patron saint of lovers was so well acquainted with pain and suffering. St. Valentine has widely been accepted by the church as dying after being imprisoned and tortured while visiting Rome (When in Rome…). That said, there are debates about nearly every detail of St. Valentine’s life; from what he did, to who he was, to even the question of if he was one person, two people, or no one at all. Then again, judging by the standards by which someone becomes a saint, I could be made a saint thousands of years from now after all the details of my life get confused and then glorified.

But I digress…

At CNU there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of students that view Valentine’s Day moderately. People either go out to dinner, make cards, write sappy poems and light some candles, or they complain about people that go out to dinner, make cards, write sappy poems and light some candles on Tumblr.

But I would argue that, violent torture deaths and Tumblr aside, we should all embrace Valentine’s Day. The only downside to the day is the downside we make out of it (if we choose to). If you’re single on Valentine’s Day, this is your one day to ask someone out at random and you have no risk of making it look creepy. If they say no or look at you funny you just shrug and say, “Happy Valentine’s Day”. Perfect cover: You’re just festive.

If you’re not ballsy, then use the day as a chance to catch up with the family. Call your mom, dad, sister, brother, cat and let them know that you care. I called my mom to say “hi” yesterday. I felt good afterward. You probably would to.

If you’re not ballsy and you don’t have a family then just go to the grocery store, pick up some chocolate fondue and some strawberries. Return to your home and proceed to dip the strawberries in the chocolate. Before taking a bite, reflect upon the beauty of the melted chocolate dripping off the juicy red strawberry. As you eat your chocolate covered strawberries, you’ll realize that there is always something to love on Valentine’s Day.

Service at CNU

                It was just this year that I took the position of Community Service Chair for Phi Alpha Delta (The International Pre-Law Fraternity). CNU’s chapter of Phi Alpha Delta is modest, but filled with people who have the common goal of getting into Law School. Phi Alpha Delta offers many different benefits for students looking to go into Law School, from unique visits with Lawyers, judges and Law School Admission Deans, to volunteering opportunities.

                Just this year I’ve worked to set up CNU’s Phi Alpha Delta with the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia. The Legal Aid Society offers legal assistance to people who cannot afford to hire an attorney to help them with such legal issues as writing a will, getting a divorce, or bankruptcy assistance. I as well as a number of other Phi Alpha Delta members now volunteer at the Hampton office at least once a week.

                This type of service is beneficial on multiple levels. Not only do the Phi Alpha Delta members get real-world experience in a legal office dealing with real issues, they are also helping people who have a serious need. While I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering at the office I have done everything from opening and closing cases, to drafting letters for clients and I’ve even had the opportunity to sit in on an attorney-client meeting. The Phi Alpha Delta members and I have been able to learn, first-hand, how lawyer-client interactions take place, the kind of work attorneys do on a day-by-day basis, and we even get the chance to see what kind of civil law looks most interesting to us.

                In the mean time, we are helping people that would be helpless without us. The attorneys at Legal Aid have their hands full and anything that we can do to lighten their load gives them a chance to help more people. Some of these people are in desperate need of some financial relief through bankruptcy; others have had a bad split with their spouses that they want to legally move on from, some of them just want to make sure that what they leave for their children when they pass will actually go to them. The people that Legal Aid (with the help of Phi Alpha Delta members like myself) assists are so thankful that someone is willing to help them, that it is not unheard of that they get emotional when they thank the attorneys for the help.

                All service that CNU students partake in is meaningful, but it can be rare to actually see the positive impact that the service is making. I count myself as lucky and honored to take part in serving people in such a way that I can see the impact I make.

Complete

The simple pleasure of your company goes beyond simplicity.
Like the incomprehensible vastness of space, I feel overwhelmed.
Your eyes are hypnotizing and memorizing.
And I lose myself as I lose my balance and fall into your arms.

I’ve never known a heart to beat so akin to mine
With a passion I couldn’t conceive until I held you.
And when I kiss your lips, my joy threatens to burst forth
like fireworks of desire as loud as my laughter.

It’s with humility I must admit, I just can’t understand
How I could find myself with someone so beautiful,
Who loves me through the challenges,
And makes me feel complete.

Scalia: A Love Story

“Forget about state rights. They’re gone!

If there was a list of phrases to never say in the state of Virginia, this one would probably top the list. Yet, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia doesn’t seem to mind much about his audience. When he visited CNU on October 18, 2012 to speak with students, he pulled no punches. Antonin Scalia is appointed to the highest court in America for the remainder of his life. He doesn’t have to worry about embarrassing himself and losing prestige or his job. He doesn’t need to worry about getting reelected. This freedom from societal pressure allows Justice Scalia to be honest and sincere, as well as entertaining. He was easily smartest person in a room full of 1200 educated people.

To the chagrin of all the professors present, Scalia downplayed education in favor of luck and character in terms of its relation to success. “Good luck beats early rising,” he said at the 3pm Student Q&A sessions, during which invited students had the opportunity to candidly ask the Justice and his companion, Judge Henry Hudson, questions. At the evening event he quoted his father, saying, “You can hire brains by the hour. The only thing not for sale is character.” His emphasis on the importance of character and luck stood out in a speaker series that focuses primarily on the importance of leadership through education and making good connections.

What was immediately striking about Scalia was his youthful energy and his enthusiasm to speak his mind. Scalia acted like a man twenty years his junior and had a mind that was as sharp as can be. The short, stocky, overtly Italian Scalia doesn’t need to stand over you to be an imposing figure, but when he cracks his smile and starts speaking, it is clear that he is as easy to talk to as a favorite professor. While many students walked into the events of the day with misgivings and expected a stuffy, unapproachable judge, Scalia’s openness and sincerity helped everyone to relax and enjoy the talks. One line that he used, both at the private Q&A session and at the public talk later that night, laid out why he became a lawyer. He was not initially sure he wished to go into law but his Uncle Vinnie—and “every Italian has an Uncle Vinnie”—was a lawyer so he thought he would give it a go.

Whataya tawkin' about?

Whataya tawkin’ about?

Despite the fact that Scalia has not always been in the majority in the court, and he admitted that his constitutional theory of interpretation is not as widely accepted in the U.S. as he would like, Scalia did not come across as someone who stays up at night worrying about the future of our country. He knows what his place is in the government and when he was asked about his opinions on specific policies he responded by saying, “I am a policy eunuch. They write it. I review it. That’s it.” Echoing the tone set by Chief Justice Roberts in the recent healthcare decision, he explained that the Supreme Court doesn’t decide whether a law is a good one or a bad one. Rather, their job is to decide whether it is constitutional or not.

Regardless of whether or not students agreed with Scalia’s interpretation of the Constitution, everyone seemed to enjoy the man’s presentation. Perhaps this was because it was so clear that he was having a blast with us. When President Paul Trible stepped onto the stage to signify the end of the evening’s Q&A session, Justice Scalia declined to step down, saying, “I’m having such a good time,” This was met with a rousing round of applause that one might expect for an encore performance at a Mumford & Sons concert. His sincerity and obvious love for what he does helped students warm up to the man, even if they still disagree with his opinions.

If nothing else, Justice Scalia represents the pinnacle of success, which he said means, “being the best at what you love”. His definition of success was one that does not rely on power or money or promotions. It is one that emphasizes the importance of character and enjoying what you do. This standard of success is one that every CNU student strives to reach, and is fully capable of obtaining. In this and many other ways, Justice Scalia was the perfect speaker for the President’s Leadership Program and the student body of Christopher Newport University as a whole.