battle of the beliefs graphic

Battle of Beliefs graphic

Last year, 43,634 people died from gun violence-related deaths, 611 of them being from mass shootings (gunviolencearchive.org). Gun violence is an issue that has been at the forefront of American politics in recent years, usually sparked by horrific mass shootings. Afterward, people discuss how to go about limiting gun violence, with the conversation usually ending up finding its way to gun control.

Today, representatives from both the UT College Democrats and UT College Republicans share their beliefs on whether or not gun control is the approach that needs to be taken to limit gun violence and the legality of it in general.

Shelby Wright, College Republicans

Do guns contribute to violent crime? With shootings and crimes involving guns, gun control laws have become more strict in order to try and stop these tragedies. However, I would argue that harsher gun control does more harm than good.

As Americans, we are granted the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment of our Constitution's Bill of Rights. It says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” Our Founding Fathers set this in place so that we could protect ourselves from a tyrannical government and/or an individual who poses a threat to our safety.

In the media, anti-gun rhetoric focuses on how many people are killed by guns rather than the good done by law-abiding gun owners. According to the FBI, “over the last 30 years, the United States has seen a significant increase in mass shootings, which are becoming more frequent and more deadly.” While this is true and tragic, anti-gun media continues to blame the firearm rather than the shooter.

In a recent study published in the "Journal of Clinical Psychology," Ira Glick studied 35 mass shooting cases that occurred in the U.S. between 1982 and 2019 that involved shooters who survived and were brought to trial.

“Analysis of various sources of medical evidence on the mass shooters showed that 28 had mental illness diagnoses, 18 had schizophrenia and 10 had other diagnoses including (bipolar, delusional, personality, and) substance-related disorders. Of the 28 shooters with a mental illness ... none were medicated or received other treatment ... prior to their crimes. Glick and his colleagues also examined 20 mass shooters who died at the crime scene and found that eight had schizophrenia, seven had other mental health diagnoses and five had unknown diagnoses. None were receiving appropriate medications (Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology).”

This evidence demonstrates that a lack of treatment for mental illnesses enabled the shootings, not the gun itself.

According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, 97.8% of shootings occur in gun-free zones. It can be speculated that mentally ill individuals take advantage of gun-free zones in order to cause the greatest amount of death and damage. It is likely that if these gun-free zones were more limited, the shooter would be met with the same force and taken down. This scenario is how an armed churchgoer, Jack Wilson, in Texas shot and killed shooter Keith Thomas Kinnunen, who opened fire on a crowd of 240 people one Sunday morning. Because Wilson was armed, only two people died in the shooting.

It is also statistically shown that allowing people to carry guns decreases the rate of crime. For example, in Vermont they have few gun control laws and they require no permit or license to carry a concealed weapon, and the violent crime rate is 172 per capita. In contrast, Michigan has strict gun laws and a violent crime rate of 449.4 per capita, with Detroit ranking second in the nation with a violent crime rate of 2,248.44 per capita in 2020.

Gun rights in America are extremely important because the very presence of guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens makes our communities safer. Resolving gun violence will not be solved by stricter gun laws, but by addressing the mental health crisis America is facing today.

Makaela Webb, College Democrats

Gun violence costs you $928 every year. That is a total of $6 billion that Tennessean taxpayers must cover when that amount could easily be reduced with the enactment of common-sense legislation.

Tennessee’s rate of gun death is significantly higher than the U.S. average, and it will continue to worsen until we take united action. On a local level, Knoxville’s City Council has recognized the dangerous costs that gun violence has on a community. In 2019, City Council voted 8-1 in favor of banning gun shows on city-owned property. The gun show loophole is infamous for allowing buyers to avoid federal background checks when purchasing a firearm, and with this vote, Knoxville moved a step closer to recognizing that danger and offering sensible regulation.

Even though our city calls for more regulation, there are still limits to what can be put into place due to resolutions on the state level. This past April, Governor Bill Lee signed legislation that eliminated the requirement to have a permit to carry a concealed firearm. Previously, Tennesseans were required to fill out an application and to complete training. Governor Lee has carelessly tossed aside safety by relaxing training requirements when the exact opposite is needed, especially since Tennessee’s number of unintentional firearm injuries continues to rise. By learning gun safety and function, a gun owner could easily prevent accidents and loss of life.

However, the lack of requirement makes safety appear as a waste of time and creates a false sense of confidence. When buying a firearm, a permit should be required to simply purchase it. Instating a system such as this would ensure that firearms are registered, the customer’s background check is conducted and would allow for a new introduction: mental health screenings.

In Tennessee, about two-thirds of gun deaths are classified as suicides. That is an average of 1-2 people taking their lives every day by gun. When applying for the permit to purchase, the process could be taken at a slower pace and allow for systems that are already in place to identify individuals that need help. Applicants would be required to visit a psychotherapist who would then evaluate their mental state and green light the continuation of purchase.

People would be able to easily find counsel and to seek help early on, a crucial step when battling mental illnesses.

Gun violence strains not only taxpayers’ pockets, but also law enforcement and a community’s spirit. I remember countless hard lockdowns as a kid in Tennessee schools, sometimes because a student had somehow gotten their parents’ gun and left it in their locker. And I couldn’t help but wonder: Why does Tennessee ignore the safety of its students in order to make its own profit? While not all instances can be prevented, most can be with the right action.

Regardless, we must step up to ensure that Tennessee sets an example of safety and virtue for the rest of the nation to follow.

Thank you to Shelby and Makaela for representing their respective organizations this week. Civil discourse is extremely important in a diverse community like UT, so please feel free to have similar conversations with your peers!

UT College Democrats and UT College Republicans are student-run organizations dedicated to increasing political activity in students and electing political officials of their political parties in all level of government. Check out their Instagrams at @utcollegedems and @gopatutk.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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