VOLUME 26 #1

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Illustration of a microphones and headline Dialogue and debate

The students entered the ring knowing it would be a bitter fight. The issues at hand were divisive, ranging from the war on drugs to gun control, which has (again) ignited fiery discussions since the Parkland massacre that left 17 dead. Months before the school shooting, members of UD’s student-run political groups took to Purnell Hall, where they debated an issue that has gained heightened significance in the tragedy’s aftermath. Here, the Messenger examines the first question of the night.



Following the school shooting in Newton, Connecticut in 2012 that left 26 people dead, including 20 children, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, recommended arming school personnel, asserting that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun. Do you agree that the solution to gun violence is for more Americans to carry firearms, and is there any evidence that that works?

—Debate moderator and associate criminal justice professor Eric Rise

Elliott Gincley, BE21, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL):

I absolutely agree with that. Anecdotally, I originally grew up in Ohio before moving to New Jersey, and in Ohio, in elementary and intermediate/middle school, there would always be security guards around with firearms, and they honestly made me feel safe. And then when I moved to Jersey—a much more liberal state—I saw the only real protection we had was a tiny, little sticker on the [school] front door [that] said, “gun-free zone,” and the security guards didn’t have a gun. Let me tell you something—if someone wants to shoot up a school, they don’t care if that sticker is up or not. They really don’t.

Ross Doty, AS18, College Democrats:

Look at Chicago; I’m sure somebody here is going to bring up Chicago. It’s very close to two states with relatively weak gun laws, and Chicago has relatively high rates of gun deaths. Stickers don’t stop guns; state lines don’t stop guns. If we look at the facts—if you look at Missouri, in 2007, we repealed a law requiring a license to own a handgun. It was associated with a 25 percent increase in firearm homicide. If you look at 1995, Connecticut, we passed a law requiring a permit or a license to purchase a handgun, and that law was associated with a 40 percent reduction in the state’s firearm-related homicide rate. So, the facts show that when we have common-sense gun regulation, when we pass laws that restrict gun use and gun ownership, there’s a stark decrease in the amount of deaths. But you’re right. We need sweeping legislation across the entire nation.

Brian Jarrell, BE20, College Republicans:

When I was young, I was exposed to guns, so every time I went to the shooting range, no one got shot. No one ever got shot. Illinois was the last state to legalize concealed carry in 2014, and Chicago Police Department statistics that year show that robberies, burglaries and motor vehicle [theft] went down. It declined by 20 percent, 20 percent and 26 percent [respectively] from the previous year. It shows that gun laws don’t work because you can get a gun illegally, in any way possible. If someone wants to hurt someone, they will find a way to do it. Banning guns is not the way to do it. Britain and Australia, after instituting gun buybacks and bans, did not experience drops in gun-related crime. That’s what the Washington Post said. International statistics show that strict gun laws don’t correlate with fewer murders. A paper published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy states that nations with stringent gun controls tend to have much higher murder rates than nations that allow guns. So, I believe that good guys can beat bad guys with guns.

Bailey Weatherbee, AS19, Young Progressives Demanding Action:

Well, to return to the question of arming school personnel—since armed security guards have licenses to carry guns and police are not within that category—arming civilians with guns, generally, I don’t think is a very good idea. The vast majority of gun injuries that happen in the home are from accidents because in most states, to get a gun license, the training required is rather limited. So, obviously, if we’re going to arm civilians in any sense, we have to really adjust that training, the licensing process and the background checking.

And just to the “good guy with the gun” narrative: There have been instances where a good guy with a gun has done a good thing, which is what happened in Sutherland Springs. A man in the parking lot shot, injured and killed a man who killed people within a church. But then you have Vegas, where it was a country music festival and the band that was playing on stage came out and said, “We have guns in our tour bus. We wanted to go get them. But then we realized that if we went out there and started shooting back, the sounds would have ricocheted, we would have missed, more people would have gotten hurt, law enforcement would not know which one of us was the bad guy, and we would have impeded their efforts.”

So, instead of just talking about arming people, without [discussing] the potential consequences in an actual high-stress situation, is irresponsible.

Moderator: We now have three minutes for rebuttal. Who would like to begin?

Jarrell, College Republicans:

I have a question for the Progressives. What would have been your solution to prevent Vegas other than making stricter gun laws?

Weatherbee, Young Progressives:

Well, the thing is, you are right when you said the vast majority of gun crimes—80 percent, based on one study—are committed by guns that are not owned by the shooter. To prevent those types of issues, we need to have stricter enforcement on straw purchasing, which is already illegal, but given the statistics, clearly not effective in the enforcement. And straw purchasing is buying a gun legally, and [then] giving it to someone else who should not be able to legally own a firearm.

Additionally, there are no federal regulations—other than a ban on armor-piercing bullets—for ammunition. We require licensing, background checks [and] licensing of sellers for guns, but not ammunition. So, to prevent a legal gun use in gun crimes, which is the vast majority of problems—not counting suicides, which are gun deaths, by the way; we should really look into psychological evaluations—

Jarrell, College Republicans:

Thank you for saying that.

Gincley, YAL:

Please tell me if I’m understanding your stance right. You believe no citizens should own guns. It should only be in the—

Weatherbee, Young Progressives:

No, no.

Gincley, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL):

Well, in the beginning it sounded like you were saying that in the hands of citizens, they’re far more dangerous, correct?

Weatherbee, Young Progressives:

Yes, based on what is happening right now, but that’s not to say—

Gincley, YAL:

If I may—If we take a look at where some of those policies are more or less implemented, in Australia and the UK, where guns are virtually banned amongst citizens, we see the homicide and crime rates drop, but they were already on a downward trend. The banning of guns had no impact on violent crime or the homicide rates. What would you say to that?

Weatherbee, Young Progressives:

I would say “no impact” is a stretch on the statistics. Yes, there’s a downward trend in crime worldwide, that does exist; but to clarify, Australia doesn’t have a ban on guns. They have a ban on semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons. Handguns are allowed. There’s a very rich hunting culture [there]. And the main thing that they did was after a 1996 mass shooting, they responded by banning automatic and semi-automatic guns, and then buying about—what’s the number? I have it here [in notes]—I think 60,000 or 600,0000 voluntary buybacks from civilians and destroying them, decreasing the number of guns in circulation. So, to say they have a full ban on guns is irresponsible.

Gincley, YAL:

Are you saying you want to ban semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons?

Weatherbee, Young Progressives:

I think a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be advisable, given that 47 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats support it.

Gincley, YAL:

Well, most violent crime committed with guns in general is mostly [through] handguns. If you ban semi-automatic guns, you’re not tackling the real problem.

Weatherbee, Young Progressives:

Some handguns are semi-automatic, that does exist.

Gincley, YAL:

Yes, but we’re talking about rifles.

Weatherbee, Young Progressives:

Semi-automatic rifles also exist.

Doty, College Democrats:

I look at the overarching point of your argument, and you want to make sure we have our Second Amendment rights protected. I look at the Declaration of Independence and the quote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I read that and I look at my fellow Democrats out in the audience, and I look to the general theme of the Democratic party, and I don’t see a party that wants to modify or nullify the Second Amendment and take those liberties away from you. I see a party of people who the value of a person’s life. And when you talk about liberty, I can’t believe that you would look into the eyes of the 1,300 children killed per year in gun violence and say, “At least he was free from government tyranny.”

Gincley, YAL:

You are literally standing on the grave of a dead child to make your point.

Jarrell, College Republicans:

There are countries where guns are totally banned and have higher murder rates, specifically cited is Russia, where their murder rate is four times higher, and guns are banned there. Just want to point that out.

Weatherbee, Young Progressives:

There are a lot of other issues that could be leading to that number in Russia.

Okay, next Question. I apologize; the set-up is kind of long, but I think it’s a good question. In the case of the United States v. Heller, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess firearms and that the District of Colombia’s total ban on handguns, as well as its requirement that firearms in the home be non-functional even when necessary for self-defense, violated that right. At the same time, in his opinion, Justice Scalia noted that the Second Amendment is not unlimited. He said, “It is a right to keep and carry any weapon, whatsoever, in any manner and for whatever purpose.” So, my question for you guys is multiple. Are gun rights and gun control mutually exclusive, as it is often presented? Are both sides of the debate too extreme? If you support gun control, would you concede that many people, especially those who live in violent neighborhoods that are underserved by police, need to be able to defend themselves? If you support gun rights, would you support measures that reduce the lethality of mass killings, such as bans on automatic weapons, high-capacity magazines or bump stops? I apologize for the long question, but I think that gives you a lot to chew on.

Doty, College Democrats:

Like I said before, I look at the general opinions of the Democratic Party. Nobody is trying to take away your right to own a firearm; we’re just looking at the facts. In counties in the United States, there’s a strong correlation—and you’re going to argue correlation isn’t causation—but there’s a strong correlation between stricter gun laws and a reduction in overall death. It’s significant and you can’t ignore it. How could we look at places like Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs and Newtown and think that what we have right now is doing well? It’s not. The Sutherland Spring shooter, we talked about him. A man who killed 26 people on a quiet Sunday morning. He would've failed a background check, if it was performed correctly. That’s the most obvious form of gun control I can think of—the most relevant, the most recent, and it would have saved lives if it was implemented correctly.

Jarrell, College Republicans:

Can you repeat the question one more time? [audience laughter] D.C. v. Heller holds that the Second Amendment protect an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and used for traditional purposes such self-defense within the home. Militia referred to in the Second Amendment comprise all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. Essentially, this refers to the ideals of citizen’s militia, not one that was organized or controlled by the government.

We do believe that there should be some regulations for firearms, but not so many that makes it so much harder for somebody to get a gun to defend their own home. We think that yeah, you should have a background check for people who are like the shooters of the Sutherland shooting, who was a dishonorably discharged person. He should not have been having a gun, but sometimes people make mistakes. People make mistakes a lot, but we did have those two people who did have firearms and did protect them. For the Republican Party, policing all weapons is a back-and-forth situation.

Weatherbee, Young Progressives:

I believe in the Constitution. I love the Constitution. The Constitution gives you the right to bear arms, you have the right to bear arms. But in the past 40 years, more Americans have died by gun use on U.S. soil than in any and every war combined. There’s a problem. In terms of common sense, gun reform that we can probably agree on:

As I previously mentioned, regulations on ammunition are not talked about enough, and should be. Only 8 states require licensing to sell ammunition and California’s doesn’t even go into effect until 2019. Additionally, bump stocks should be banned. We have a federal ban on fully automatic weapons, and bump stocks allow rifles to be used almost as a fully automatic weapon, and that should be common sense to fall under the same category.

We need universal background checks. About 22 percent of guns are bought without a background check because private sellers are not required to perform them. Additionally, as I previously mentioned, straw purchasing, really big issue, and we should be investing in smart guns to a certain extent for fingerprint locking or pins. They’re imperfect as they exist now because gun violence—which should be treated as a public health issue is the 2nd-least funded cause of death in the country, after falling.

Gincley, YAL:

I definitely agree. There definitely is a baseline for common sense gun laws. Like YAL absolutely agrees with limited background checks and if you have a mental illness, obviously you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun, or if you have a violent criminal history you absolutely should not be able to buy a gun. See that? We can actually all come together on something. I’m loving it.

But in the case of D.C. v. Heller specifically, if you look at the murder rates when guns were made illegal, they didn’t prevent murders from not happening. In fact, the murder rate actually quadrupled in the years following, and then when guns were made legal again, post the D.C. v. Heller, they dropped back down and are continually falling.

So I would say, in that specific case, clearly the trend does not show that gun laws were that helpful.


We’ll now begin the rebuttal period

Doty, College Democrats:

Do you want to make the point that D.C. is right next to Virginia ,and Virginia has a D-grade on scale of F to A from the Law Institute to prevent Gun Violence? Like I said before, state lines don’t stop guns, and unless we have sweeping gun legislation, you’re going to see strange anomalies like that. It’s an anecdote to say that in D.C., increasing gun legislation caused more death.

Weatherbee, Young Progressives:

To add to that, saying statistics is great, but when looking at academic studies, a 2004 study found that more guns correlated to more homicide. A 2000 study found that more guns correlates to more homicide in high-income nations. A 2002 study found that in the U.S. across states, more guns is more homicides, and in a 2015 study, more guns [leads to] more homicides of police. So in terms of the studies that have been done, the idea that increasing the amount of guns in circulation would decrease gun crime is not really there.


Would anyone like to respond?

Jarrell, College Republicans:

I’ll respond to that. As of 2014, the number of Americans with concealed carry permits increased by 147 percent. Over the previous 7 years, the homicide and another violent crime has dropped 22 percent. What do you have to say about that?

Weatherbee, Young Progressives:

Well, the U.S. in general has been on a downturn, and while deaths by guns have decreased, non-fatal injuries by guns within that same period actually increased, so one number won’t tell the whole story there.


We’ll move on to the next topic. Thank you.


On Voter ID:

Elliott Gincley, BE21, YAL:

I agree with both the Republicans and Progressives. The Republicans were saying you need photo ID to basically do anything, so you should also need it to vote. I also agree that, in some ways, it is difficult to get an ID. YAL’s solution is that voter ID should be mandatory, but dually, it should be easier for people to get identification. YAL proposes a strategy similar to how when you’re born you get a social security number, when you turn 18, you’re also given a voter ID card. Then, we cut the military budget by however much that would cost.

Bailey Weatherbee, AS19, Young Progressives:

I love your solution. Auto voter registration at 18 would be great. The real thing we should talk about is low-voter turnout in this country. It’s abysmal. It’s the lowest in the developed world, and we pride ourselves on being such a wonderful republic. Voter ID laws are a problem in terms of their implementation and affects; however, in terms of the massive choice to not go to the polls—that’s not them.

On the Paris Climate Agreement:

Tom Hull, AS20, College Democrats:

Let’s all agree on one premise: climate change is real. We cannot deny the near-scientific consensus—97 percent of all scientists [say] that not only is climate change real, but we caused it. For reference, 97 percent is the same surety that we have that cancer is linked to smoking cigarettes. Now, the Paris Climate Accords are a very important, real push towards managing carbon emissions… There’s no downside to being in the Paris Climate Agreement… In fact, the Trump claim about pulling out of it was that he was saving jobs—2.2 million jobs are currently available in clean energy, whereas coal employees around 160,000. There are no extra jobs to be found by pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Dan Worthington,BE19, College Republicans:

Well President Trump made good on a campaign promise and his contract to the American voter to withdrawal the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, and I know you just said there was no downside to it, but how is it fair if countries such as China and India—who pretty much give off the most carbon emissions in the world; they’re the top-two leaders—didn’t have to take any action until 2030? We don’t deny that climate change isn’t real. I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that throwing plastic water bottles onto a grass field and lighting tire fires isn’t going to hurt the environment. What President Trump is talking about is that it was an unfair deal.

On Drug Control:

Joaquin Martinez, EG19, Young Progressives:

One in every two Americans this day and age actually knows someone who’s been addicted to drugs. This is a mental and health issue and shouldn’t be treated as a crime.

Hull, College Democrats:

Thirty percent of all HIV contractions in the US come from needle sharing. We’re punishing people who are doing whatever it takes to fill a mental need with jail time that just drives them further [away] from the help they need to receive. We’re punishing people for dying, we’re punishing people for having a problem, instead of providing the help that’s needed.

Alex Closs, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL):

Purely punitive policies have not worked… We should first start by decriminalizing all drugs, then slowly legalize drugs over time, and institute policies to help people.

Worthington, College Republicans

I agree we need to shift our country’s focus in this war. The focus needs to be on the opioid epidemic. According to the State Department’s 2016 Narcotics Strategy Report, Mexico remains a major transit country for cocaine and heroin. We all know a solution in the news to fix that.

Martinez, Young Progressives:

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m getting bored about seeing us all agree on everything. I just want to say the sources of our drugs is not because of international forces. It is the irresponsibility of the pharmaceutical companies promoting opioids. Health for profit is what’s making the United States addicted to drugs.

Worthington, College Republicans:

I don’t think it’s that boring that we’re all up here agreeing, finally, on one issue, especially with all the partisanship going on in the country. But I really don’t think it’s the pharmaceutical companies… It’s a mental fortitude thing. We need to start reminding people that it’s up to you. It’s not always going to be the government’s role to be 100 percent involved in our lives and all the issues that affect us.


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