CLARION — The Clarion University Speech and Debate team hosted the event “Resolved: The United States Needs to Have a Serious Discussion About Gun Control” on Thursday, November 26. This event was not so much a debate as it was a forum of students discussing different viewpoints and topics about gun control. The head of the debate team, Jim Lyle, and four students; Quentin Claypool, Ethan Dyer, Abigail Shipley, and Thomas Payton, took turns speaking about gun control in our country.
The discussion was opened by Jim Lyle who began by talking about how polarizing of an issue gun control is. He said that when it comes to these polarizing issues people on the far left and far right tend to yell their viewpoints to drown each other out, and people in the middle get to the point that they don’t want to talk. The topic of gun control and gun violence tends to be an uncomfortable one, and it’s hard to tell how people will react. People refuse to engage with each other on the topic and it causes social fragmentation.
Quentin Claypool was the first student to give his speech, and he focused on the topic of the Dickey Amendment of 1996. This amendment has not been changed since it was passed. This amendment was written by Jay Dickey, a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arkansas. This amendment states that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” This does not prevent the CDC from doing research on gun safety, but it makes a solid line between the research and the perceived advocation for control of guns. The problem this poses is that if any research turns up results that guns play a role or are part of the problem with violence in our country, sharing those results may be perceived as advocating for gun control.
Claypool also shared that Dicky had changed his mind about the amendment today, and quoted him saying, “we need to turn this over to science, and take it away from the politics.”
He finished his speech by saying that, “We need to allow the CDC to thoroughly research gun violence so that states and congress can either pass informed legislation or refrain from passing legislation if those efforts would prove to be ineffective.”
The next speaker, Ethan Dyer, evaluated guns from the issue of whether guns should a primary resort or a last resort. He began his speech by pointing to the argument that guns are a defense against a tyrannical government. He makes the point throughout his speech that while that worked for our ancestors when the best weapon to have was a musket, it is no longer the case for us.
Dyer said, “Already in 1939 there were only five states capable of waging war on a grand scale, now there are only three, perhaps only two.” He went on to say, “Few if any civilians can afford the types of weapons the United States could use against it’s populace if it became tyrannical.”
Today the government has weapons like tanks, helicopters, missiles and various other military equipment, would be hard for a regular person to get. Dyer closed his point by adding that if the government would become tyrannical fighting the same way our ancestors did would not be effective today.
The third speaker, Abigail Shipley, is an education major and chose to look at the relationship between guns and schools. Instead of focusing on whether guns need to be taken away or added into schools, she decided to focus on who needs to be involved to make schools safer from violence. She believes that legislation barring guns from school zones is not going to stop someone that really wants to bring a gun with them. Instead she said, “I think we just need to make it so that people don’t feel a need to pick up the weapon in the first place.”
In regard to the school setting, her suggestions are to train teachers to identify potentially violent students, have crisis intervention specialists on hand, teach kids to use words and not weapons, and practice what to do in active shooter situation. One of the first steps to implementing all this is to target students that are believed to be a potential risk. Having teachers trained to identify signs of distress is very important to this plan. Having the crisis intervention specialist is important so that once these students are identified they have someone they can go talk to. Teachers also need to have incident response plans in case something were to happen.
She then went on to say, “The students to know that they have a person they can go to if the suspect that another student has a weapon or if someone is acting suspicious because teachers can’t possibly see and hear everything around them.”
She argued that intervention is what is going to stop all the violence in our schools when they are done by students. Between 2013 and 2015 when the age of school shooter was known, 56 percent of shootings were perpetrated by minors. Often many of these shooters were bullied, and would pull the gun on the bully while an incident was happening.
She closed her points by saying that she does not believe the solution is to put more guns into schools. She said that if part of her training to be a teacher has to happen in a shooting range then she does not want to have that job.
The last speaker was Thomas Payton, who spoke about whether or not gun control works. He started by saying further restriction on guns might not be a direct solution. To make his point he began by recounting the recent event involving Kevin Neal, who shot and killed his wife and four other people. Police recovered two semi-automatic rifles and two handguns from Neal’s possession. Neal had just posted $160,000 bail for charges of assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, and more. He was restricted from owning any firearms whatsoever, and the two handguns were not registered to him. Payton’s point behind this was that Neal was a criminal who was not supposed to have these guns, but restricting this is a hard thing to accomplish.
This brings into question whether or not controlling guns is really effective in this manner. As Neal showed, criminals can still get guns. Payton went onto say, “this issue could have been prevented. This is not about the guns Neal owned, this is about him as a person.”
Payton then went on to make a point about the gun culture of our country. He points to American culture and how deeply weapons are imbedded here as the larger issue in implementing gun control. He points to the comparison of gun restriction in Japan to gun restrictions in the U.S. People often say that if it can work to lower murder rates in Japan, then why can’t it work here. Payton addresses this by saying that the American culture is different.
Japanese people don’t want guns and the American people appreciate their weapons and want to own them. He says that people that utilize weapons and feel the freedom given to them by their country without impeding the freedom of other know that “this is people violence, not just gun violence.” He continued to say, “To weed out the violence just by making stricter laws and restrictions on guns is going to go against the grain on us as American people.”
He concluded that restricting the guns might not be the best way to accomplish lower gun violence in our country. He offered that there might be a better way to do this, and that we might need to go beyond just restricting guns.
To conclude this discussion the floor opened up to questions, and a few of the audience members offered up questions for some clarification on the speakers’ viewpoints. Overall, this event offered everyone present a few different points and related topics to think about for the future of this country. One thing that was made clear is that there needs to be discussions like these if anything is to be accomplished on the front of gun violence in the country. By having this discussion some valid points were able to be made, and the chance to counter back was given after a complete thought had been made.