Why ‘Gunning for Control’ may be futile
Individuals “gunning for control” over their neighbors’ right to bear arms will likely find their efforts in vain, was one culminating message of a recent Controversy n’ Coffee discussion by that name.
Last week, Student Union and the Pre-Law Society hosted the panel with two Washington University professors and one local public safety official to revisit the national debate on gun control policy. About 25 students attended.
Keeping in mind the summer shootings in Aurora, Colo., and the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., panelists tackled the question of whether increased regulation could result in less gun-related violence.
“Gun violence is a comparatively rare event overall, [but] it profoundly affects people’s sense of wellbeing,” Eddie Roth, St. Louis public safety director, said. “The fewer guns in a community, the fewer gun crimes there are.”
Particularly following the Aurora shooting earlier this summer, many politicians have renewed a nationwide push for gun regulation. New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, for example, has spoken vehemently in support of increased firearm regulation, and it is not the first time for him to tackle the cause. In 2006, he co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition now with more than 700 mayors who fight illegal gun trafficking and gun violence in the nation’s cities.
Roth noted that the mayor of St. Louis, Francis Slay, has spoken out in favor of increasing gun regulations as well, but state regulations have impeded him from making changes. But Roth also explained that changing just one city’s gun regulations isn’t necessarily the answer to problems with violence, as it could lead to many difficulties in dealing with criminals across borders.
“We have very little autonomy in our ability to regulate gun violence,” Roth said.
He said that regulations would primarily benefit those who live in poor neighborhoods and areas where drug abuse is common.
“People who participate in gun violence are typically young people with disadvantaged lives who just don’t see a future for themselves,” Roth said. “This is how they settle disputes in their communities.”
In light of the fact that both summer shootings involved individuals of questionable mental health, the panel also touched on the question of what Second Amendment rights should be and are guaranteed to the mentally ill.
Deborah Dinner, a panelist and associate professor of law, noted that despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which declared it unconstitutional to outlaw handguns, authorities still have the power to deny arms to individuals deemed psychologically unfit.
But the third panelist, Thomas Oltmanns, professor of psychology and director of clinical training at the University, said such regulations could only contribute to increased stigmatization of the mentally ill.
“Not all who suffer from psychosis are violent, and not all who commit murders suffer from psychosis,” Oltmanns said.
Student reactions to the panel discussion were mixed.
“I thought the panel was great. It included a good range of perspectives. My favorite part was hearing about some of the different strategies that have tried to curb gun violence,” freshman Danny Munro said.
Senior Adam Segal said he wished the discussion had been more dynamic.
“I had expected more perspective. I thought there would have been more controversy. How little the people who study, practice and make laws know disturbs me. I did like the panelists; I just had hoped it would have been more of a community discussion,” he said.