The great gun debate
The third floor City Council Chamber at Pittsburg’s City Hall was packed with spectators April 10 as the Los Medanos debate students preformed a public debate on the hotly discussed issue of gun control.
Political Science Professor and Assistant Debate Coach Dave Zimny introduced the topic to the audience: Firearm regulation vs firearm access.
“This is an informational debate. Our debate team isn’t here tonight to convince you to support or oppose any gun control measure of any kind. We are here to gain a deeper understanding of one of the most important but complex questions on our national agenda,” Zimny said. “We believe that the best way to think clearly and critically about public policy questions is through an all-out clash of ideas.”
The issue of gun control has been heightened recently due to the Sandy Hook and Aurora shootings that led President Barack Obama to enact 23 executive orders in the aftermath of the carnage.
The debaters took each other to task on five components of the proposed regulations: universal background checks, a ban on military-style weapons, stricter punishment for illegal gun trafficking, reducing magazine capacity, and $350 million funding in support of gun violence prevention.
The debate got underway with student Brianna Marrie-Klipp arguing for the affirmative that America would be a safer place if there were more extensive background checks. As of now, she said, only licensed dealers perform background checks and loopholes allow private sales and gun-show purchases to go unchecked.
Although Marrie-Klipp argued for more restrictions, she holds the constitution in high regard and doesn’t necessarily believe the restrictions will have a big impact.
“I personally believe that everyone does have the right to own a gun – I mean, I’m totally for the constitution,” said Marrie-Klipp adding, “as for the assault weapons, I don’t necessarily think that putting a ban on the magazines is going to deter people from having these mass-shootings.”
Student Josh Noriega debated the negative, arguing that since the talk of new gun regulation began there has been a rise in gun sales. He reported as an example gun manufacturer Smith and Wesson’s sales have risen 30 percent since 2011-12, and coupled with that he said gun thefts are increasing as well.
“Three things this can cause. First of all, more guns will go in the hands of criminals… second thing this will lead to is the general population is going to be without guns, because what Obama’s gun control plan does is it makes it harder for people to go out and get guns,” said Noriega. The “third thing this will lead to: black market increase. If criminals are not using these weapons to conduct crimes they will probably going to be selling.”
Spectators included community members, and LMC students who were there to witness the clash of ideas and earn some extra credit as well.
“My political science and speech class offered extra credit. I am personally against the gun control because I don’t think it’s going to fix the issues immediately,” said LMC student Jessica Simons. “I think we need to start at the roots and we need to figure out something a little more specific to what’s going on. I feel the proposals what he [Obama] has put forth are very broad.”
LMC student Brandon Zickerman thought the debate was interesting but felt the debaters got slightly off topic.
“I think they spoke a little fast – it was kind of hard to understand them,” he said. “They are very passionate about the subject but I think they got a little off subject at times, and kind of joked around a little too much.”
Head debate coach Kasey Gardner was impressed with the number of people who turned out to see the event,
“People were standing out in the lobby, they even turned on the extra PA system” so that those standing out in the hallway could hear, so a phenomenal turn out couldn’t be more impressed,” said Gardner, who explained why they decided not to pick a winner in the debate.
“In the public debates we usually don’t have winners and losers” he explained, adding that although they could have polled the audience, they decided that since picking a winner ‘would change the conversation,’ it was better to let the issue live on in discussion after the fact.
In an ironic twist of fate, while the debaters were shooting hot facts at each other, numerous sirens could be heard outside the chamber room.
As police responded to a shooting just two blocks away on Harbor Street and California Ave., neighbors gathered on the sidewalk as investigators combed over the scene for evidence.
One witness said he was sitting in his house watching TV around 7 p.m. and heard about 10 to 15 shots.