February 13, 2013

Cornell Democrats, Republicans Face Off In Gun Control Debate

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In the wake of shootings in Newtown, Conn. and in Aurora, Colo., the Cornell Democrats and the Cornell Republicans faced off Wednesday evening to debate gun control.

The heated debate — which was moderated by Ryan Yeh ’13, president of the Cornell Forensics Society  — focused on three separate areas of gun control: who should be allowed to own a gun, what kind of guns should citizens be permitted to carry and other ways besides gun control to reduce gun violence.

Cornell Democrat Dalton Vieira ’14 argued in his opening statement that gun control can’t be targeted with a “blanket solution,” and instead each case needs to be examined individually.

Cornell Republican Julius Kairey ’15 said that bearing arms is a Second Amendment right and that the U.S. government needs to “tailor [gun control] policies to the citizens’ needs.”

“Gun control hasn’t made an impact in cities with the highest amount of gun violence, such as Chicago,” Kairey said.  “Present bans are sufficient.  We don’t want to trample on individuals’ rights.”

The two sides questioned whether the restriction of some guns — such as the ban of rifles that carry five rounds in New Jersey or 10 rounds in New York  State — would make a difference in combating violent crimes.

However, Kairey agreed with Vieira’s point that each case should be examined individually.

“We need to see a case-by-case-approach to see if it tramples on the rights of citizens and if it actually makes an impact,” Kairey said. “Assault weapons make up a tiny percentage of the problem here, as most murders are done by handguns. The government is not capable of seizing 280 million guns in an effort to protect its citizens.”

Republican Kyle Ezzedine ’14, who is also a Sun blogs writer, said that recent gun massacres were the result of “irrational” behavior, rather than an “overabundance of weapons.”

“There are irrational people who are doing irrational things — the guns don’t necessarily change that behavior,” he said. “Rather, gun violence is part of a larger problem.  What needs to be changed is why the people are committing these crimes.”

Throughout the debate, the Cornell Republicans cited the Second Amendment as a platform for their defense during the debate. However, the constitutional right to bear arms has its limits, according to Democrat Tony Montgomery ’13.

“The Second Amendment says that we can bear arms,” Montgomery said.  “It doesn’t state that we can own arsenals.  I think that we can protect the Second Amendment while creating an environment where citizens don’t have to fear violent crimes.”

Though they disagreed on many points, both the Democrats and the Republicans agreed that more thorough background checks are necessary in reducing gun-related violence.

Republican Mark LaPointe ’16, said background checks should extend to people’s family health histories, as mental health problems can develop later in life.

According to Cornell Democrat Michael Sun ’16, the federal government should crack down on mental health background checks, saying James Holmes — the suspect in a mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Col. in July — was allowed to buy a gun even though he had mental health issues.

“In some cases, it’s easier to get a gun than it is to get prescription drugs,” Sun said.

Kairey disagreed, saying that if there is a threat to the guns market, gun purchase levels will actually increase.

“Your top-down approach to gun control is failing,” Kairey said. “The streets are being flooded with guns.”

Sun also argued against cracking down on video games  in which gun violence is glorified. Instead, he said that mental health should be  made a greater priority among lawmakers.

“Steps should be taken to reduce the social desire to commit these crimes,” he said.  “We agree on the need to increase mental health spending; we do disagree on who should pay for it.”

According to Ezzedine, gun violence does not exist as a result of culture that encourages it, but rather because of the government’s inability to detect and control such problems.

In response to an audience question about an ideal world without guns, Montgomery pointed to a case in China before the Sandy Hook schoolhouse shooting, in which a man armed with a knife attacked a schoolyard full of children.

“Is it desirable to have a world without guns?” Montgomery asked the audience. “The real question to ask is it is achievable?”

Though members of both organizations spoke positively about the debate,  Ezzedine said it was “a little messy.”

“We agreed on a lot of points, but the debate was hindered by its disorganization,” he said, referring to the frequent interruptions in the debate dialogue.

Vieira echoed his sentiments.

“We agreed a lot more than I thought we would, which was nice,” he said.  “But we still had stuff to talk about.”

Original Author: Emma Jesch