The great gun debate

Take a look at where students and presidential hopefuls stand on gun rights


Illustration by Ivan Benavides

William Deckler, Contributing Writer

With mass shootings continuing to plague America and the looming threat of terrorist attacks, gun control promises to be a lightning rod issue in the run-up election of 2016.

Republicans and Democrats have failed to agree on a common approach to dealing with the crisis of gun violence that doesn’t bump up against the Second Amendment, added to the Constitution nearly 225 years ago.

Republican candidates like Donald Trump argue that if more citizens were armed, mass shootings could be prevented.

Democrats, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, argue for the need to pass “common-sense gun legislation” and put further regulations in place, such as additional background checks and personal screenings. However, both parties are looking at changes that won’t affect the right to bear arms.

In schools with low crime rates like Florida Atlantic University, students still run the risk of encountering violence and unsafe situations. The question of whether students and faculty should be allowed to bring guns to campus has moved beyond theoretical in light of the recent surge of school shootings and other recent attacks.

Jelithza Minaya, a Navy veteran studying international business, says she’d feel safer if she could bring her gun to campus in case of a shooting.

“In order to ensure our safety, we need to propose additional laws that will help us prevent gun related crimes from happening,” says Minaya, who is an independent but is leaning toward voting for Trump, specifically because she agrees with his views on gun control.

She mimicked Trump, saying, “Protecting our Second Amendment rights will make America great again.”

The main problem, she says, is the people who manage to get guns illegally.

“Criminals, drug dealers, etc. must be prevented from getting weapons. Strict background checks should be required because sometimes it’s not about the guns, it’s about the behaviors of people.”

Minaya, who served in Afghanistan, owns a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver. She primarily has it for home defense and only brings it out to the shooting range when she has free time, never out in public.

“I would definitely carry my gun on campus if a bill was passed. Certain regulations of who can carry one on campus or any place should be heavily considered.”

Lawmakers in Tallahassee are due to vote on a proposed “campus carry” bill next summer.

During the third Republican presidential debate last November, Trump argued that gun-free zones are “a catastrophe.” When the moderators of the Republican primary debate asked Trump about the recent mass shootings that have been continuously occurring, Trump took the opportunity to criticize the idea that gun-free spaces could reduce gun violence.

“Gun-free zones are target practice for the sickos and for the mentally ill. This has nothing to do with guns; this has to do with the mentality of these people. I’m a big Second Amendment person,” he said.

Last November at FAU’s Boca Raton campus, students discussed gun control in a public debate hosted by Student Government where they explored various ways to improve gun legislation. Although students want to protect their Second Amendment rights, they still feel that changes must be made.

Communication major Carolina Gomez argued for aggressive background checks. Her classmate Charles Nicholas, a political science major, opposed her on the basis of violating the gun rights of law-abiding citizens.

Gomez said, “Private gun [sellers] should not be allowed to sell guns without having a license to do [so], making them responsible for background checks.”

Gomez is a Democrat voting for the first time and is unsure of who she will vote for but agrees with Bernie Sanders when it comes to gun regulations. “His proposal toward stricter background checks is an absolute must,” she said after the debate.

“It’s important for people to realize that mental health is a huge issue when it comes to gun control,” she said, in line with Sanders’ stance.

In addition, Gomez opposes the campus carry laws being proposed in the state legislature. “No one would feel comfortable having a person with a gun in a classroom,” she said.

Nicholas faced off against Gomez in the debate to make a point about the right to privacy, but agrees that America needs to get a grip on its gun problem.

“The government needs to enforce all gun laws, such as cracking down on straw man purchases, which isn’t being done. Once all current gun laws are enforced, then and only then should the government expand gun background checks,” he said.

Nicholas says he is likely to vote for a Democratic candidate because he doesn’t see any Republican contender addressing gun control in a reasonable manner.

“I really like one aspect of Bernie Sanders’ proposal about gun control, about not holding law-abiding gun dealers responsible if the gun [they sold] is used in a crime.”

Like Gomez, he doesn’t support campus carry.

“I don’t agree with the proposed campus carry law. Though if it were passed, I would want to know that the person was properly vetted and followed the legal requirements to own a weapon.”

With the stirring debate about America’s gun laws, Bernie Sanders’ attitude toward gun control and the Second Amendment is facing fresh scrutiny.

According to OnTheIssues, a website providing information to voters about the current candidates running for president, Sanders’ proposals consist of expanding background checks and banning the sale of assault weapons to the general public.

Moreover, Sanders has also said in previous debates that holding gun manufacturers legally responsible for mass shootings is a bad idea.

Do I think that a gun shop in a [state] that sells legally a gun to somebody, and that somebody goes out and does something crazy, that that gun shop owner should be held responsible? I don’t,” said Sanders. ”Where you have manufacturers and where you have gun shops knowingly giving guns to criminals or aiding and abetting that, of course we should take action.”

On the issue of mental health, Sanders finds himself in agreement with some House Republicans.

In the meantime, President Obama is seeking to finalize a proposal that would expand background checks on gun sales without congressional approval. White House officials said they’re attempting to prevent the provision thats allows the sale of guns online and at gun shows without a background check.