The Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Department of Political Science and Public Administration co-sponsored a formal debate about U.S. gun control on April 5 entitled Gun Control: A Civil Discussion on a Loaded Topic.
The debate was held on the second floor of the Oxendine Science Building. Dr. Kevin Freeman moderated the discussion. Debaters Chapell Brock, senior history major, and Omar Torres, junior physics major, traded facts and statistics on guns in the U.S., as well as ideas for potential reform, as they answered pre-written questions and ones given to them by members of the audience.
Brock, a former military member, said during the debate that he owns a firearm. He argued in favor of preserving the Second Amendment, which states that Americans should have the right to keep and bear arms.
Brock stated that guns are useful to U.S. citizens for recreational reasons as well as for hunting, and that guns are necessary for citizens to protect their property and to check and balance the government for any possible tyranny. Torres does not own a gun, but agrees that firearms serve a purpose in the country.
He said that would like to see the regulations on them enforced more strictly than they have been. Torres also said that he would like to see common sense legislation on these weapons to ensure that people that should not have guns do not have access to them.
Highlights of the event included a question about arming teachers in U.S. schools. Brock said that teachers should be allowed to be armed on a voluntary basis, with the costs of training and certification to use the firearm waived by local police, while Torres said that the concept of teachers having guns on school property would not be ideal.
Both participants agreed on the importance of people on opposite sides of this debate having civilized discussions on the topic rather than arguments that don’t move the country forward on the issue.
“I think it is more important to have a civil dialogue on this topic than to debate; we expect there to be a ‘winner’ with debating. When we debate, we’re defending our position on that topic and sticking to that position without much consideration...I think that is why we are having a lot of problems,” Torres said.
Gun control has become an even more relevant topic in light of recent U.S. events such as the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. In the shooting, 17 people were killed and 14 more were wounded, according to NBC, marking one of the most violent mass shootings in U.S. history.
The shooting also further sparked the polarizing national debate about guns and whether stricter gun control laws would prevent these types of tragedies. While one debate on one college campus will not solve what has been a national problem for decades, the discussion represents a step forward in dialogue for UNCP dialogue.
A crowd of about 40 students and staff members were present during the debate, exceeding the expected turnout. Brock was commended by members of the audience after the debate for his candor during the discussion, while Torres was much more subdued when he talked about his own performance in the debate.
“This was a new challenge for me since I generally don’t openly express my personal opinions on national topics like this one, however, I really enjoyed the challenge and feel like I gained a lot from it. Personally, I don’t think I did outstanding as a debater, but I do think I provided good dialogue,” Torres said.
Dr. Robert Canida of ODI was present during the debate and thanked the audience for their attendance. Canida also praised both participants for their performances.