By Bethany Erb
Here at PUC, it can sometimes feel like we’re isolated from global and national affairs.
Life swirls around us—persistently lapping at the roots of our arboreal sentinels. But the truth is, we’re connected. High-speed Wi-Fi (okay, that’s generous), refreshed Twitter feeds, and dusty newspapers in Winning Hall all testify to our capacity to be informed, educated, and opinionated.
Speaking of gun legislation, we asked one professor and two students to share their personal history and opinion on America’s gun culture. We hope that by recognizing PUC’s thought-diversity, you’ll understand the gun-control debate with empathy, intelligence, and respect.
A Chat With: Dr. Howard Munson IV
Do you own guns? If so, what is your reasoning behind ownership? “Yes, I own guns. Three reasons. I like military history and own a couple of vintage firearms. Second, I grew up in Eastern Washington where gun culture was part of life, whether for rural hunters or for city gang drug culture. Third, the first home my wife and I owned was in a rough part of Portland and every doorframe had been kicked in. There were drugs and prostitutes visibly for sale on our street corner. I purchased a handgun and shotgun for personal and home defense.”
Have recent mass shootings shifted your stance towards gun legislation, or have they reaffirmed it? “School shootings since Columbine, in 1999, have only reinforced my belief that common-sense gun legislation needs to happen. This should include mandatory background checks, requiring gun safety courses, closing gun show loopholes, and enforcing reporting of any violates to databases responsible for allowing gun ownership. Parkland just adds to that view.”
What’s your stance toward the NRA? “The National Rifle Association’s inflexibility to contemplate any gun control legislation is morally irresponsible in my opinion, and that is why I am not a member of the NRA.”
What’s something you wish PUC students knew about this issue? “America’s gun-control debate frequently pits idealistic people with no background or understanding of America’s diverse gun cultures against pragmatic-minded, law abiding citizens who are not the people who commit mass shootings. Both sides need to realize that the United States has a long history of gun culture grounded in a judicially-established Second Amendment to the Constitution. This is a starting point reality that no legislation can immediately overturn. Both sides also need to acknowledge that there are common sense actions to take. Israel and Switzerland both have high gun ownership and tight gun control laws. All-or-nothing approaches to this issue only benefit politicians who thrive on polarization but do nothing to help solve the actual problems that kill people.”
Do you think guns are really “weapons of mass destruction?” “Guns are not tools of mass destruction. As a military historian, describing a gun as a tool of mass destruction is thoughtless political rhetoric in action. Mass destruction comes from massed bombing raids, massed military-grade artillery barrages, and nuclear weapons. Cargo trucks are not tools of mass destruction and neither are personal firearms. The causes of mass shootings go much deeper than gun ownership— the best we can do is implement common-sense limitations.”
A Chat With: Mariana, Junior—Biotechnology Major Do you own guns? “I am definitely pro-gun. I do own one rifle. I mean, I am all for people owning guns—I think everyone should know how to work a gun, understand safety guidelines, etc. The more knowledge you have of guns, the less fear you have of them. Can you make ‘pro-gun’ all caps?”
What is your reasoning for owning guns? “My rationale is based off of what Thomas Jefferson said: when the citizens aren’t armed, and the government is the only one with consolidated power, then it has total control over us. We’re citizens. It’s our job to keep the government in check. Without guns, we don’t have a bargaining chip.”
Has the Parkland shooting shifted your stance toward gun control legislation? “My stance stays the same. There doesn’t need to be any new regulation. There just needs to be enforcement of the legislation already in hand. I mean, you can quote Section 4473—if they have a history of mental illness or committed dishonorable discharge, they shouldn’t have guns. Legally, the Parkland shooter shouldn’t have had a gun.”
What about America’s media? Are they responsibly covering gun-control? “The thing is, I think America’s media is demonizing the guns over the criminal. The media is playing into our fear, absolutely, and some are skewing things to the point where they want the government to revoke total ownership of all guns. It’s ironic that people are calling for gun control, when those guns are going into the hands of government personnel— what about them? Will they be moderated and responsible with our guns?”
You’ve talked about the history of gun-control. Can you elaborate? “We’ve seen parallels of what happens when citizens lose control. In Cambodia, in the 20th century, Pol Pot disarmed the citizens and about a million educated people were exterminated. From 1971-1979, in Uganda, Idiam outlawed guns and rounded up 100,000 Christians to exterminate them. In China, Mao Zedong, in 1948-1952, rounded up and killed 20 million people, all in the absence of citizen gun ownership.”
A Chat With: Reuben, Senior—Biochemistry
Do you own guns? If not, do you see yourself doing so in the future? “No, I do not own any guns. I don’t need a gun. What would I need a gun for? Some people say that they need their guns to protect themselves, but for me to use a gun to protect myself I would have to be willing to use it on someone else, which I am not willing to do.”
* Has the Parkland shooting shifted your thoughts on America’s gun-control culture and legislation, or has it reaffirmed it? In what way?* “The Parkland shooting, as well as each of the mass shootings that preceded it, has served to reaffirm my belief that we need much stricter gun control. Each of these tragedies have shown that it is far too easy for anyone to get their hands on guns. Not just any guns, but guns like assault rifles that are designed only for effectively and quickly killing lots of people. The Parkland shooting also strengthened my view that guns are not needed to protect people in that people such as the security guard were on site and armed, yet their guns did nothing to stop the senseless massacre of 17 people.”
What are your thoughts on the NRA? “I see the NRA as relatively small, at only about 5 million members, yet extremely vocal and effective group of people. The NRA, through skillful lobbying and political manipulation, have been able to repress just about every attempt to change current gun laws, even going so far as to prevent government funding for research into any gun related issues (see the 1996 Dickey Act), and preventing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from having an updated electronic database for current firearms holders. Over all, I believe that this minority of people have far too much control. This control leads to the restriction and reduction of majority views and legislature.”
What’s one thing you wish PUC students knew about gun-control? “I wish students knew that gun control works. There are many countries around the world with much stricter gun laws than we have here in the USA, and they show that increased gun regulations results in lower instances of gun violence and mass shooting.”
Gun-violence is mainly due to a society’s culture and moral fabric than simply the accessibility of guns. Agree or disagree? “Yes I think society is violent, and I agree that gun-violence does result from this. I’d even go so far as to agree with what is commonly said, that most often, guns don’t kill people, but people with guns kill people. However, guns make society’s violence so much more devastating than it could be. With a gun, all it takes is a short lapse in judgment and the squeeze of a finger to take someone’s life. Guns make killing fast, easy, and efficient. Guns might not be the source of society’s violence, but instead they are the means to take that violence to the next level. And it makes me wonder—how many of those seventeen people from Parkland High School would still be alive today if Nikolas Cruz entered that school with a knife?”