Deliberative Dialogue: Mass Shootings

Photo by Danielle Konovitch

A Socratic Seminar about gun violence held Wednesday night in Argyros Forum demonstrated surprising consensus between pro-gun and anti-gun students.

Chapman and Santiago Canyon College students who attended Deliberative Dialogue on Mass Shootings March 14 faced discrepancy when discussing three methods to reduce mass shootings. Of 62 Chapman students polled on the issue, 79 percent would restrict assault weapons, 8 percent would equip people with weapons to defend themselves and 12 percent would root out violence in society by reducing media coverage of mass shootings and restricting depictions of violence in entertainment.

Civic Engagement Initiatives, hosting the event, had to halt and redirect the seminar when students debated the impact of delaying the age at which long guns (rifles and shotguns) can be obtained.

Licensed firearm dealers may sell long guns or ammunition to a person who is 18 or older. As for handguns, licensed dealers may sell to those 21 and older, according to Giffords Law Center. However, unlicensed dealers are a different story: they may sell long guns to people of any age and handguns to those 18 and older, as long as the buyer indicates the need for their handgun for activities including employment, ranching, farming, target practice and hunting. 

Some students were disgruntled by the question of delaying the age at which guns can be purchased.

“Age doesn’t matter at all,” said junior psychology and strategic and corporate communication major Kyler Hannah. “I get that people want to protect their second amendment right, but just delaying age wouldn’t make a difference. If someone wants a gun, they’ll be able to get it.”

Another student diverged Hannah, offering that ease of accessibility to weapons would make a lot of difference.

“When you think pragmatically, if people are making impulse decisions based on emotions like, ‘I’m angry and I want to kill them,’ and they either already have a gun or could buy one, then they’ll start killing people right away,” the student said. “Whereas if that person had to wait a few years before they could buy a gun, they would have time to cool off.”

Students also stated that Congress should allocate more money toward more thorough background checks. Students believe that licensed sellers need to cover a buyer’s background and take additional time to double-check it.

“If a licensed seller doesn’t have these things in place, then age doesn’t matter,” a student said. “If there’s nothing forcible for it, you can just go and buy a gun using fake identification, and that’s terrifying.”  

Department of Justice guidelines require the National Instant Criminal Background Check System reviewers to make an immediate decision on whether a person can buy a gun or not in 90 percent of cases, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. If a background check requires more information, the FBI takes three business days to make a final decision. The Brady Act allows the Federal Firearms License to sell a gun to a buyer if the NICS transaction is not resolved within those three days, according to the FBI.  

“If I have to wait 90 days before I can get an internship, then I think it should take more than a few days to get a gun,” a student said.

Students also discussed the outlook of equipping people to defend themselves, along with its primary drawback that the proliferation of firearms and armed guards in public places may create the atmosphere of a police state.

A 1997 study cited by the hosts of the seminar used cross-sectional time-series data for U.S. counties from 1977 to 1992 and found that allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and does not produce an increase in accidental deaths. The same study found that if the unarmed states had adopted guns in 1992, about 1,579 murders and 4,177 rapes would have been dodged yearly.

However, a conflicting study also referenced refuted the other through extended analysis, which established that more guns means more crime.

Students reviewed the hypothetical action of arming teachers and school administrators as well. Many students brought up the drawbacks of interfering with the learning environment and placing teachers in positions for which they may neither be ready for, nor temperamentally suited.

Students’ opinions were congruous regarding the prospect of arming teachers and school administrators, in that it would be calamitous.

“As someone who is pro-gun and is a future teacher, even if teachers and administrators had training and the government funds the training, how many will have experience shooting a gun while being shot at?” a student said. “People react differently under threat. Brain chemistry wouldn’t allow a person to think properly while using their gun and there may be more casualty than there would have been if the teacher wasn’t armed.”

Another student pointed out the inevitability of bias and favoritism, having seen teachers’ tweets about not trusting themselves or colleagues to protect their students.

Rooting out depiction of violence in society appeared to be the least favorable solution to diminishing mass shootings. All student attendees agreed that video games and violence in mass media don’t equate to reality, and that entertainment culture wouldn’t bring out violence in people.

“One of the most famous mass shootings was Columbine,” a student noted. “The student was straight, popular, rich and confused everyone. No one suspected these two guys to be the type of people to be shooters because they looked like they had ideal lives from an outsider perspective. They weren’t bullied or struggling, and they were the guys who inspired many mass shooters after them, like the Virginia Tech one. How would combatting video games and bullying play a role in stopping this trend perpetuated by these guys a little over two decades ago?”

Joseph Lanning, a student visitor from Santiago Canyon College, believes that the best solution out of all those discussed would be to eliminate lobbying and removing the National Rifle Association as a persuasive voice in how gun violence is handled in the United States.

Students who attended the forum, though affiliated with different political parties and holding different opinions about the second amendment, were in agreement with regard to strengthening background checks, the notion that equipping teachers and school administrators would cause mayhem, and that less guns means less violence.

Danielle Konovitch

Leave a Reply