Gun control has been a hot topic of debate in recent years, amid mass shootings in the United States of America.
To encourage discussion on this issue, the Student Government Association and Becton College hosted a Hot Topics event on Feb. 23 in Lenfell Hall. Daniel Cassino, associate professor of political science, served as moderator.
Anthony Trusso, vice president of academic affairs for SGA, welcomed the audience and then handed over the microphone to Becton College Dean Geoffrey Weinman. The dean introduced the two debaters: Jonathan Daverso, vice president of the Debate Club, and Ore Obiwumi, president of the Debate Club and senator of academic affairs for SGA.
Obiwumi took on the position of the anti-gun argument, while Daverso defended pro-gun perspectives.
While introducing Obiwumi and Daverso, Weinman split the room into two sides: pro-gun and anti-gun. Weinman then asked everyone to sit on the side they supported. A decent number of people decided to change seats.
Before the debaters took the podium, Cassino explained to the audience of the history of gun control in the United States, just to make sure everyone had a basic understanding on the issue. Once Cassino concluded, Obiwumi began her first wave of arguments. She said that, “according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 325 mass shootings in the year 2015 alone … the U.S government has been unable to change the laws that allow for shootings like this to happen.”
“The U.S still has the most firearms per capita, and with it one of the highest rates of gun violence in the developed world. … The gun laws we have are ineffective and they need to be changed. … We need to learn from our counterparts in Australia and many other European nations and create stricter gun laws in order to protect our citizens,” Obiwumi added.
After Obiwumi completed her argument, it was Daversos’ turn to take the podium. He began by claiming that “a lot of times people that want to restrict gun ownership don’t understand guns.” He went on to point out that “gun violence is not just gun murders.”
“See, people who care about gun control and care about the second amendment only want to stop people from shooting one another. Two-thirds of all gun violence deaths are suicides… in the United States, 50 percent of the people kill themselves with firearms… 25 percent hang themselves. While in the United Kingdom, only 2 percent of the people kill themselves with guns but 60 percent of people [who commit suicide] hang themselves. And so, it’s very misleading to say that gun violence is astronomically high… when mainly two-thirds of it is suicides,” said Daverso.
Daverso also gave an example of a case where a woman who filed a restraining order against her abusive boyfriend tried to register for a gun to protect herself. According to Daverso, the process was so time consuming and inefficient and one night when the young woman came home, her boyfriend was waiting for her. A stab wound was the cause of her death.
“This is a very good conversation we should have in New Jersey. Innocent people are being punished for trying to protect themselves,” Daverso said.
When both debaters made their points, they had the opportunity to return to the podium for rebuttal. In response to Daverso’s point about gun violence mostly caused by suicides, Obiwumi countered, “We do still have a national responsibility to prevent suicide as much as we can. Having a gun handy makes it easier to shoot anyone and anything, including yourself.”
Obiwumi also affirmed that in the case of home invasions and wanting to protect oneself from an attacker, the police are the ones to arrive and take care of such situations.
Daverso defended his position by saying that people in high volume cities, like Detroit, do not have as much quick access to the police as suburban areas do, saying, “To say that these people do not deserve the right to protect themselves, I think, is outrageous.”
At this point in the night, the floor opened for audience questions, and there were passionate and eager responses.
Trusso asked why we care so much about Australian gun laws. Obiwumi answered by saying, “The point of bringing up Australia and Europe’s gun laws is to show that the amount of crime in their nations reduced drastically when they changed their gun laws. The same would most likely happen in the United States since they are similar, Western countries.”
Another question was brought up to Daverso about his opinion on school shootings, to which he referred to the tragic Sandy Hook School shooting where the assailant obtained a gun by stealing it from his mother:
“We need to take a look at gun owners. We have to make sure their guns are secure in their households, and because a lot of the time criminals who obtain guns are taking them through illegitimate means,” said Daverso.
As questions were winding down, Weinman asked the audience whether or not they had changed their minds about where they originally decided to sit. No one moved.
After the event was dismissed, audience member Audrey Eismann concluded that “[she] thought the presentation was really well done. Both speakers, Ore and John, I thought had a lot of statistics and facts and had done a lot of research. They are clearly both really strong debaters and I really appreciated that. I really loved the feedback from the audience. It was very strong. Sometimes you don’t get that.”
When asked about her personal opinions about gun control, Eismann said, “I’m more pro-gun but I do understand the argument on both sides that you do want to have regulations and I would like to do more research before making my final decision, not just based off of tonight. But I am very pro-gun. I think you should be allowed to have a gun if you go through the proper channels.”