Gun safety has returned to the forefront of the national conversation following recent gun-related tragedies. In response to this, the University of Virginia Center for Politics hosted a panel Tuesday examining gun rights and responsibilities.
The event was in partnership with Converge UVa, a bipartisan student-led initiative that has a goal of alleviating political tensions between students.
Moderated by Kyle Kondik, the communications director at the Center for Politics, the panel featured four UVa politics professors: Gerard Alexander, Daman Irby, Carah Ong Whaley and Jim Todd.
The topics and arguments generally stayed around the same ones popular with politicians recently, namely what effect the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February could have on legislation and the original intention of the Second Amendment.
“Parkland may be different, because it could be sparking a movement in a younger generation on what gun culture is or isn’t,” Whaley said. “We’re in a ‘never again’ mindset with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.”
Other members of the panel agreed that Parkland felt different but expressed doubt the movement could keep up prolonged political pressure.
Alexander criticized the individuals who believe more legislation would change the likelihood of gun violence.
“What you see in many of these mass shootings is that there was a failure of enforcement,” he said. “It ought to erode their confidence that 50-something people signing some words doesn’t affect some action on the ground.”
Irby, the director of global initiatives at the Center for Politics, talked about how gun issues and opinions on the National Rifle Association have become a highly partisan issues and how that will prevent much change.
“If you align more on the left, you’re generally going to be in favor of gun control. And if you align more on the right, you’re generally going to be pro-gun ownership,” he said. “There might be some changes on the state level, like in Florida, but I think it’s more likely there won’t be much change.”
When addressing the Second Amendment, many of the panelists spoke on original intent and what the Founding Fathers would have thought about today’s firearms.
“If you look at self-defense, then you have to ask how much self-defense do you need?” Todd said. “My thinking has evolved a lot over the years, and I don’t see any reason why someone should own a gun that could shoot 100 rounds a minute.”
Alexander disagreed with the idea original intent should be used to interpret the Second Amendment.
“If you want to open Pandora’s box, then what about the First Amendment?” he said. “Certainly freedom of expression has changed since it was written.”
Tyler Hammel is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact him at (434) 978-7268, [email protected] or @TylerHammelVA on Twitter.