The issue of gun control, which is rising in national prominence,  took the stage here at Stony Brook University on Tuesday, April 9, when the Young Americans for Freedom, College Republicans and College Democrats went head-to-head in an organized debate held in Benedict College.

The Speech and Debate Society argues on the Republican side of the issues of gun control. (JESUS PICHARDO / THE STATESMAN)
The Speech and Debate Society argues on the Republican side of the issues of gun control. (JESUS PICHARDO / THE STATESMAN)

The debate, arranged by the Young Americans for Freedom club and conducted by the Speech and Debate Society club, took place on the same day that the families of Newtown, Conn., took to Capitol Hill in an appeal for gun control action.

Specifically, the families and President Obama are calling for the passing of gun control legislation, an initiative that was introduced following the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting but has since been stalled. But on Thursday, April 11, the Senate finally voted in favor of allowing the debate of gun legislation to take place, a process that will no doubt take another several months.

The issues surrounding the debate of gun control and the fact that it is currently a hot topic in the news are ultimately what prompted the organizing of the event.

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“I think it’s something that’s very polarizing, that is very much a hot button issue right now,” John Slanover, president of Young Americans for Freedom and organizer of the event, said. “No matter where you fall in the equation, whether you are pro-restriction, against restriction, this is the form to voice your opinion.”

The debate began with an interpretation of the Second Amendment from both sides, and whether or not gun control is infringing or enhancing the rights of U.S. citizens. The two sides, College Democrats and College Republicans, had very different ideas as to what the Second Amendment guarantees, and to what extent it should be reformed.

“Every other one of our nine bill of rights is regulated in some way. Free Speech is restricted in certain aspects, as should the second amendment. There should be rules and regulations,” Danny Awalt, a debater for the College Democrats who is pro-regulation, said.

Awalt also argued the point that the United States leads all NATO and wealthy nations in gun homicides, with 30,000 deaths a year—nearly 10 times the rate of all other nations.

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“30,000 deaths a year, three deaths every hour, that is unacceptable in a first world civilized nation. And in order to address this problem, we can make guns exceedingly difficult to obtain. How do we do this? Regulation,” Awalt said in his defense of gun control.

Awalt’s passion for the topic stems from a more personal stance. He believes that it is his experience of working with guns so closely that makes him so insistent on gun control.

“In addition to my career as a SBU student, I am also a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve,” Awalt said. “I think my close relation with guns helps feed my anti-gun stance.”

But the College Republicans were equally as passionate, as both sides put up compelling arguments for what they believed was the best approach in protecting both Constitutional rights, as well as in protecting the safety of citizens. The College Republicans interpreted the Second Amendment as a means of protection against tyranny and government oppression.  They also cited the Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008.

“Our Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that this is an individual right, and I think that they are better equipped to establish what this means in this context,” Kareem Ibrahem, debater on the anti-regulation side, said.

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Throughout the night, both sides brought out exactly why the issue is such a debate, backing up their statements strongly and factually. Each side cited statistics and old court cases in presenting its argument, making it an informative, and, at times, entertaining debate.

A large portion of the audience in attendance that night was there in the hopes of learning something new about the debate of gun control.

“I would like to think of myself as being reasonably open-minded, in that I’d be interested to hear the debate on both sides, for and against guns, and see if I learn anything,” junior political science major Holly Pycroft, member of the College Democrats club, said.

The debate ended with an open forum of questions for the debaters by the audience, with the hot topic still prevailing in the minds of many.

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1 comment

  1. The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees every American the right to bear arms. Has any law ever been so ambiguous? What are arms? What does it mean to bear them? At least with the first amendment we know exactly where we stand: Freedom of speech. It couldn’t be any clearer. But, the right to bear arms leaves the second amendment open to different interpretations. We need gun permits to carry a concealed weapon. Do we need knife permits? No. Yet both can, and often do, cause death. We can own a gun, or a rifle, or a sub-machine gun, or a machete, and dozens of other tools to kill, even our own bare hands. So, gun control is a debate in our country that makes no sense unless you broaden the ban or acceptance to include all instruments of death.”*

    Over and out
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