More than 20 students gathered in Annenberg Hall on Wednesday night to attend “Bearing Arms in the 21st Century,” a panel discussion on gun control organized by the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network in the wake of the Tucson shootings.
“I think all students should care about gun control because it’s an issue that shows up periodically on campuses around the country but never gets addressed,” said SESP sophomore Zach Glasser, the event coordinator.
The two-hour discussion, moderated by professor Wesley Skogan, was a heated debate between gun policy advocates and opponents. It was interrupted by bursts of laughter and shouting. The panel was sharply divided on the role gun policy played in the Tucson tragedy.
The goal was to represent a diverse range of opinions, said Elizabeth Derby, the marketing director of the Northwestern Chapter of the Roosevelt Institute.
“Crazy people exist regardless of what laws are placed,” argued Paula Bratich, coordinator of the Illinois Second Amendment Sisters. “We ban drunk driving, we don’t ban trucks.”
Others thought strict laws are necessary to protect public safety, but law professor James Lindgren had a different take on the issue.
“If either side was right, we would have seen a big effect on gun control,” he argued, citing a 2004 study by the National Academy of Science that concluded gun control makes little difference on gun violence.
Another hotly contested issue was whether anyone without a felony record should be able to carry a handgun concealed.
“Everyone has the right to defend himself to the best means possible,” said Mike Weisman, first vice president of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
Weinberg freshman Oscar Lopez remained ambivalent after the discussion.
“It’s a good thing that the government doesn’t automatically assume people will use guns for violence,” he said. “But there should be much more regulation for people who are going to use them illegally.”
Full Disclosure: Oscar Lopez has written for North by Northwestern.