The national conversation about gun control legislation, reignited by the Parkland shooting in February that killed 17 people, has led to campus walkouts, marches and most recently, a student forum focused on the politics and policy of gun control.
“We thought it was really important that a march not be the last thing that gets done,” said Giancarlo Valdetaro, a member of the Roosevelt Institute, referring to the March for our Lives at Cornell that his organization led about a month ago.
The Roosevelt Institute, a student public policy think tank, organized Friday’s forum and presented perspectives from four students and a professor on topics ranging from legislation to cultural values surrounding guns. It also coincided with a second nationwide school walkout.
The panel included Sydney Eisenberg ’21 of the Roosevelt Institute, TJ Hunt ’21 of the Cornell Political Union, Denny Lee ’20 of the Speech and Debate Society and Quinn Otto-Moudry ’21 of the Cornell Republicans.
Valdetaro also emphasized the importance of how the conversation brought in voices from across the political spectrum, saying that the campus can often be a “liberal bubble.”
“We forget to talk about solutions and importantly we forget to talk to people who disagree with us,” Valdetaro said.
Some audience members also echoed the call for multifaceted discussion, including Mason Woods ’20, who said he would be “looking to see if there is bipartisan discussion happening in this area” and contrasted his upbringing in Texas with his personally left-leaning views.
“I don’t necessarily think that gun ownership equates to that person being bad, but guns can end up in the hands of people who are that way, so how can we mitigate that in a way that everyone can agree with?” Woods asked.
Otto-Moudry, who sported a tie-clip in the shape of a handgun said he volunteered to participate in the panel because he is passionate and informed about gun rights and saw serious issues with arguments from gun control advocates.
“Generally when I’ve talked to people who are pro-gun control, they don’t understand firearms, they don’t understand the Second Amendment, they don’t understand the laws that exist or the laws they want passed,” he told The Sun.
Prof. David Bateman, government was also invited by the Roosevelt Institute to explain political barriers to gun control legislation and discussed his thoughts on the event in an email to The Sun.
“I agreed to join the discussion because I think that student engagement on these sort of issues, across different perspectives but towards a definite goal, is fundamentally important, both in society and as part of the mission of the university,” Bateman said.
He also pointed out that although such debates are not necessarily going to change minds, they might still serve the political movement for gun control.
“These events can be good at concentrating and building energy for a political movement, and it is the threat of policy and political losses that will produce change,” Bateman told The Sun.
Weifeng Yang ’20, a member of Cornell Political Union, expressed concern after the panel discussion about what he saw as lopsided political representation among the group.
“In many ways this could have represented what the general campus might say on the issue, but instead we’re having a more liberal professor alongside a liberal political organization with one conservative with the constant role of defending what 50% of people support,” Yang said.
According to Valdetaro, the Roosevelt Institute plans on using notes taken from the discussion along with community input to write a policy proposal, but has no concrete plans for additional events.
“In regard to any future events, I can’t guarantee any seeing how close it is to the end of the semester, but I know that there is definitely an interest in hosting a range of policy discussions in the future,” Valdetaro said in an email to The Sun.