As a national debate about gun control rages, respresentatives from both The University of Alabama’s College Republicans and College Democrats say they believe the South’s culture of guns is a driving force behind students’ differing opinions. They also say students should openly discuss the subject, and University Programs will soon give them the chance.
This Tuesday, at 6:30 p.m. in the Ferg, Room 302, University Programs is hosting “Hot Topics: Gun Control” for students to discuss the subject in an informed and meaningful way.
“Gun control has become a divisive issue, and with the national dialogue shifting because of so many mass gun killings, it’s important for people to begin working to get better educated,” Steph Petelos, president of UA College Republicans, said. “This event looks like a great opportunity to learn firsthand and get questions answered about gun control policy, use of certain guns, what cosmetic additions are being addressed by some legislation and how they do or do not impact the use of the gun.”
Support for the event comes from all sides of the political spectrum.
“As students, I think participation in this and any other event to discuss the importance of safe gun laws is important because, especially here in the South, guns are a part of life for many – take hunting, for example,” Robert Christl, president of UA College Democrats, said. “Also, it’s a great opportunity to perhaps hear some views or consider some facts we had not thought of before.”
Petelos said she agrees culture is an important factor in opinions about gun control.
“Those who were not raised around guns have a very different understanding of gun safety,” Petelos said. “People should not simply let mainstream media, of any political agenda, be their main point of education of gun control.”
Now more than ever, there is an abundance of information and opinion about gun control.
“There are countless organizations that exist for the sole purpose of promoting guns or advocating regulation. Acquiring information isn’t difficult,” Christl said.
Christl said the gun control debate is very difficult because of the heated nature of both sides.
“Gun control is a difficult issue for many reasons, mostly because many Americans strongly believe that they have a right to own a gun, and they do,” Christl said. “But at the same time, pragmatism demands that there be some sensible legislation to prevent deadly weapons getting into the wrong hands. I think many gun owners fear that government regulation may become excessive to the point so as to restrict, or eliminate, their right to own a gun. Personally, although I can understand this concern, I think there has been a great deal of misinformation. In the end, the only way we can come to a positive, comprehensive solution is to communicate across the aisle and have a fact-based, reasonable discussion.”
Christl said he feels gun owners should consult the policies President Obama actually endorses before coming to conclusions about legislation.
“I think for the president, the issue is very clear. I think he understands that the grief of these families who have lost loved ones to shootings needs to be addressed and prevented in the future,” Christl said. “He has been clear in his proposals, but nowadays anyone with access to the Internet can pose as a news source. I think the president should be more aggressive in communicating exactly what his policies mean. I think he should also emphasize the fact that most gun owners would not be heavily affected by these laws. Most gun owners are responsible individuals who own a weapon either for hunting or self-protection. No one is against that.”
There are a variety of interests to be considered, and some disapprove of legislation outright.
“It is vital for people to be able to protect themselves and their homes, and that their children feel safe at school and that all people feel safe in public venues,” Petelos said. “There are very differing opinions about how gun control should be handled and if federal government should be legislating those changes. I think it’s important for people to remember that a criminal is not going to follow the law, including gun control laws, and individuals deserve to be able to defend themselves.”