Kelcie Eberharth is the Archivist at The Statesman and an editor at Stony Brook’s Undergraduate History Journal. This month, she examined debates about gun reform on Stony Brook University’s campus over the decades.
On March 23, 2021, there was yet another mass shooting, this time in Boulder, Colorado.
Over 2,000 individuals have been killed or injured in United States mass shootings since 1999, when 15 were killed in the Columbine High School shooting. Debates about the role that guns should play in society have only intensified over the years. Especially in the past year, there’s also been a greater national awareness around gun violence associated with police brutality.
Today, Congress and President Joe Biden are working to minimize the casualties that occur due to mass shootings, gun violence and excessive force by police officers while still upholding the Second Amendment.
Colleges are often thought of as microcosms of American culture, and Stony Brook is no exception. In the wake of the Parkland High School shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, several campus organizations held a protest against gun violence and the arming of the University Police Department. The University also hosted debates about arms reform in 2013.
Gun-related issues have been featured in The Statesman on many occasions. While arming the campus police has remained a focus throughout the years, students and Statesman staff alike have put pen to paper arguing different outlooks on the overarching subject of gun control.
In the 1979 article “Officers to Stay Unarmed at Stony Brook Campus,” Melissa Spielman and Mike Kornfeld provided student accounts and perspectives on Stony Brook’s decision to keep campus officers unarmed. Many students stated that they felt the decision was justified, as the campus did not experience enough violence to warrant the need for potentially lethal weapons. Read more here.
Adam J. Kaminsky explained why he believed public safety officers on campus should be allowed to carry guns in “Let Me Tell You About Guns.” While this piece was published in 1993, it highlights concerns about violence towards minority communities. Although Kaminsky dismisses these concerns, this is a problem the U.S. is still grappling with today. The recent Atlanta spa shooting that occurred on March 16, 2021 is a prime example. Read more here.
The opinions piece “Don’t Make Gun Control What It’s Not” presents a different perspective. Writer Scott Staub’s 1989 article argues that action needs to be taken about gun misuse. He suggests that the movement to reduce gun violence should focus on limiting access to more dangerous weapons like AK-47s. These types of weapons continue to be sold, despite legislative attempts on both state and national levels to ban them. Read more here.
In the last piece, a 2001 article called “Have Bush: Will Have Guns Too,” F. L. Livingston dove into former President George W. Bush’s response to the massacre in California’s Santana High School. The shooter smuggled a revolver into his school and killed two of his classmates. The president’s response highlighted the boy’s troubled life rather than the role of the weapon in the events that transpired. Read more here.
Clashes over the presence of guns on campus have been put on the back burner likely because of the virtual learning environment, but with massacres and shootings taking over national headlines, it is important to remain cognizant of the varying perceptions on the issue throughout the University’s past. Trends over the last few decades suggest that the debate over gun control legislation will not be resolved soon, leaving the question of how weapons will be represented on Stony Brook’s campus in the future.