The Political Science Department held a Q&A session about gun politics in America on Thursday, April 7, in the Ingram Library Nook. Dr. Anthony Fleming and Dr. Dylan McLean led the discussion and shared their research involving gun politics with the audience.
McLean opened the session with an analogy, comparing Pit bulls to gun culture. He explained how Pit bulls carry a stigma with them: they are considered a dangerous dog breed and many people believe they should be banned across America to protect people from attacks. He related this idea to the common argument, “guns kill people” and how both notions are equally absurd.
“Why am I talking about dogs?” McLean said. “Dogs are like a surrogate child. Replace the word ‘Pit bull’ with ‘semi-automatic rifle,’ and you’ll understand where I’m going.”
Fleming focused on gun policy and spoke briefly about his own research in gun control before he opened the floor to questions from the audience. The first question related to guns on college campuses, which sparked a debate about allowing firearms on campuses which then developed into a broader debate on the functionality of the concealed carry law.
“There is fear on both sides,” said Fleming. “If someone feels like they need to have a gun on campus, then it’s most likely for protection. On the other hand, if I piss off a student and they’re ready to come shoot me, then they most likely don’t care if there is a concealed carry law.”
McLean explained that about 75 percent of Americans are in favor of some sort of gun control because of tragic events like Columbine, but around 10 percent are in favor of banning them completely from college campuses. Fleming explained how after the concealed carry law passed, there was no change in crime rates.
Former UWG President Dr. Beheruz Sethna chimed into the discussion when a question surfaced involving the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.
“The phrase to ‘bear arms’ meant something different when the constitution was being made,” said Sethna. “It meant ‘I have the right to fight for my country,’ not ‘I have the right to keep something locked in my home.’”
Sethna expanded on his notion by explaining his term “follow the money.” Regardless of one’s right to bare arms, gun retail is about profits. Gun research cannot determine one’s use of a firearm at the time of purchase, but gun sales are expanding and supporting interest groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA).
“Interests groups become powerful when they represent a powerful interest,” said Fleming. “Americans’ perception of politics is that most interest groups have politicians in their pockets anyway. The NRA isn’t unique in that aspect, so powerful rich entities controlling politics isn’t really newsworthy.”
McLean offered his expertise by explaining the marketing of guns in America. Gun control is more about the American right to own a gun and protect themselves if they choose more than anything else.
“In America, as opposed to the rest of the world, guns aren’t just tools,” said McLean. “Guns are physical representations of political value, and political value is essential to our American creed as individuals.”