By Anne Rittman Hoya Staff Writer

Approximately 30 students gathered informally Wednesday night in ICC to debate the gun control issue with three campus political entities, the Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians. Moderated by Aaron Polkey (COL ’02), the debate included speeches by a representative from each party plus a discussion period.

Peter Denton (COL ’03) presented the Democratic position. “We must realize the government must protect its citizens from the threat [of guns],” he said. “In real life, the majority of gun violence stems from the accessibility of guns. Guns bought for self-protection makes otherwise innocuous situations turn dangerous.”

Quoting numerous statistics evidencing the prevalence of gun violence in America, Denton said, “Thirty-thousand people are killed a day in America due to gun violence. America has the same amount of crime as other industrialized nations, but we have 62 times the amount of gun deaths. That’s more than all combined. The reason is that they have stricter gun laws.”

He also called for “sensible legislation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children.” He concluded, “Licenses are required for hunting, what about for a weapon to kill humans?”

Countering with the Republican standpoint, Andrew Maher (COL ’02), vice-chair of the College Republicans, advocated enforcing gun laws currently in place rather than creating more. “The problem is that too many people have guns. Over-proliferation [in cities] leads to many deaths. This is not solved by passing laws. Gun control is sensible, [as is] enforcing existing laws,” Maher said.

According to Maher, there are currently 22,000 federal and state gun laws. “The answer is not passing more and more gun laws.” As another republican pointed out during the discussion section, “[The Columbine shooters] broke 19 gun laws. Would another one have made any difference?”

Breaking the tension with a President Bill Clinton (SFS ’68) impersonation, Maher said, “Put [violators of gun control laws] in jail so they can’t hurt anyone. Put the felons away – that’s sensible gun control.”

“The only way to stop gun violence is to put the perpetrators in jail where they belong. The solution is not more laws, as the Democrats say. The solution is not fewer laws, as the Libertarians say. Child locks and registration will not be enforced.”

Libertarian Mike Hammer (COL ’02) presented the third view. “I would like to start by thanking the Republicans for their intent, but [I would like to] go further in protecting the Second Amendment,” he said. “The idea of self-governance is the founding of our country.”

Hammer advocated a three-part plan for gun control, consisting of “an overthrow of all laws and restrictions currently in place, laws allowing people to carry concealed weapons and [to] encourage solutions of the root causes of crime. This cannot be accomplished by the government.”

In keeping with the Libertarian platform, Hammer said, “Government intervention enhances the problem.” He cited the April 20, 1999, shootings in Columbine, Colo., blaming school guidance counselors and lack of parental supervision and care for the actions of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris rather than placing blame on the guns they carried.

“Where do we stop looking at safety and start looking at rights?” Hammer asked in his closing statement. “How far do you go in saying that knives kill children, and so you are then restricted to using plastic silverware in your home?”

Criticizing the Libertarian point of view, Joshua Arnold (COL ’02) said, “When you have people with tanks sitting on their front lawns because they can afford them, you have to reconsider your fundamental principle.”

According to Jason McGrath (SFS ’02), founder of the Georgetown chapter of Campus Alliance to End Gun Violence, “Seventy-five percent of people want common sense gun legislation. Eleven point six children die per day [from gun violence]. Felons shouldn’t have guns, and children shouldn’t, either.”

“This was a good debate; it was very interesting,” said McGrath. “It was excellent that the Libertarians were included, since they are often overlooked. I was glad all three sides agree that gun violence is a problem. The issue now is how to solve that problem. There were some good ideas [presented], not all of them are workable. Gun violence should be an American issue, a human issue.”

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