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Mace and Crown | May 24, 2018

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Student political organizations debate gun control

Tracey Buyrn | Contributing Writer

At a time when the thought of politics can be a discouragement for many on campus, there is a coalition of groups that are trying to host conversations.  Turning Point USA, a conservative non-profit organization on campus reached out to ODU’s chapters of the College Republicans and the Young Democrats to host a series of debates on campus this semester.  

The first Republican versus Democrat debate took place last Wednesday, with gun control and the Second Amendment as the topic.

Logan Kapil, vice president of the ODU Young Democrats on campus, before the debate, said, “It is really hard to change someone’s mind, what we are hoping for is a way to raise awareness with the facts for what has happened with assault rifles and make the message well known.”

Jacob Ramsey, chairman of the ODU College Republicans said, “I think there is a lot of political apathy on campus, but there are issues that have huge effects on college students, and we just want to have a conversation.”

With Political Science Professor Benjamin Melusky and Physics Professor Lawrence Weinstien moderating, Kapil started the conversation for the democrats, saying, “We (Young Democrats) support the rights of law abiding citizens to legally own weapons, but we have a problem that only happens in America. Every time we have a tragedy we ask what can we do about it?”  

“We need to reinstate the assault weapons ban,” Kapil continued. “Right now you can’t own automatic weapons, but the point is, in what we saw in Vegas and many other of these tragedies, is you can own semi-automatic weapons such as AR-15s which already have 45 rounds per minute, it just isn’t well regulated.”

Kapil continued, “You can also have a bump stock which can shoot 400 to 800 rounds per minute which is perfectly legal. That is why we believe these items are not well regulated enough.”

Legislation is under review in the Virginia State Senate to criminalize ownership of bump stocks.

“Should we limit or expand the right to carry guns both open or conceal and carry, and with that does increasing the number of people with conceal carry weapons affect the crime rate?,” Melusky asked at one point in the debate. To the audience members’ surprise, the presidents of both of the teams’ organizations own weapons and both have conceal carry permits.

When asked about limiting gun ownership being compatible with the Second Amendment issues, Ramsey pointed out, “It depends on your interpretation of the Constitution.  If you believe the Constitution is a living breathing document, then that is going to shape your belief of where you stand on this issue.”  

Kapil looked for clarification, “How can it not be a living breathing document when you have all the other amendments?”  

The College Republicans made the argument that is often heard, the only way to stop a bad gun with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun. Hawkins disagrees, pointing out the shooting in Las Vegas last October,  “The killer was on a rooftop killing people.  No one knew where the shooting was coming from.  If multiple people had a gun, and they were all looking for the killer how many more people would have died?”

Joseph Porter, arguing for the conservative disagreed, saying that Hawkins, “underestimated the amount of times guns have worked in favor of self-defense.”  He also said, “Mass shootings happen in places where guns are not allowed.  The people that do the mass shootings don’t care if they are not allowed to bring the guns. So allowing law abiding people to have an opportunity to protect themselves would not change whether they would shoot up the school, because if they wanted to, they would do it, no matter what.”

As the debate continued, although there were obvious differences, the two groups comprised.  “Maybe Virginia laws make it too easy to get a conceal and carry,” said Ramsey, “But in other states, I would have to take classes and prove I can shoot reasonably, perhaps a federally mandated program would work better?”

Hannah Zach, an art major in attendance, was there to hear both sides of the story.  “I like to think that I am still forming my opinion,” she said. “I don’t like to state something unless I feel I am fully educated on the topic.”  Several other students discussed the same purpose for being there, and both Young Democrats and College Republicans as well as Turning Point said that was the overall goal.

This was the first of what is expected to be monthly debates hosted by Turning Point USA. According to someone part of the planning process, the next will most likely be in February,  with immigration as the topic.