The phrase “What we can do is change the way we think” was a common theme among the Fresno State chapters of Fresno State Democrats and the Fresno State College Republicans during Friday morning’s gun violence debate in the Free Speech Area.
Five panelists from the two groups came together to discuss the hot political topic. Individuals from each group were allotted several minutes throughout the event, which lasted from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Peter Thomas began his statements by talking about his cell phone and car keys.
“There are many others out there like it, but this one is mine,” he said as he held each item up.
Thomas said there are cell phone deaths and car deaths every year and added that while every death is a tragedy, the ideologies that society possesses are what need to be evaluated.
“67 percent of households say they own handguns for protection and the second amendment was created to protect,” Thomas explained.
Thomas said famed pacifist Mahatma Ghandi also believed in bearing arms. He explained instead of fearing the weapons people need to look at the benefits these bring because people need to be able to protect themselves.
In an age of cutting police forces, Thomas said, the weapons are a necessity for self-defense and are a part of society.
“They’re not a bad aspect of our society and we should be proud,” he said.
Democrat panelist, who identified himself as Ryan, compared the idea of gun control to the time period of Prohibition, when alcohol was banned from 1920 to 1933.
“This has nothing to do with legal access to guns. It’s about the violence,” Ryan said.
Ryan’s statement revolved around the fact that gun violence is prevalent in lower-class communities and most guns that are purchased and used in a violent manner are obtained illegally.
“We should be addressing root reasons for violence,” he said.
His argument included something that many people may not realize about Fresno: the county has the highest concentration of poverty in one small area than any other city.
“Poverty is difficult to escape,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a debate. It’s important to expand freedoms rather than banning liberties.”
Ryan said he believes rebuilding low-income communities, investing in disadvantaged schools and reevaluating societal values may be key to lessening the incidence rate of gun violence.
Another fact that he introduced in his argument was that 20 percent of prison inmates get their guns from drug dealers rather than gun shows, which sometimes can be seen as the evil factor by some members of society.
Another panelist, Justin Thomason, quoted the Federalist Papers and said that the government, in debating gun control, was overstepping its authority.
“Our founding fathers were living in a technologically different society,” Thomason explained. The theme of his argument was that self-defense is a human right that should not be compromised by the government.
Thomason also mentioned the role of men and women in society where self-defense is concerned, mentioning that the media play a role in scrutinizing men just as much as women.
“Men have to be ‘brave and strong,’” Thomason said.
Democratic website PolicyMic.com also presented an argument on gun control and violence that echoes the points mentioned in Friday’s debate.
Five months ago, the site published an entry by one of their “thought leaders,” Ryan Myers. His entry also called attention to the idea that debates about gun control and violence most often come up after some sort of gun-related tragedy occurs, much like last December’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting or last July’s movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.
Myers wrote that the way gun control as an issue is presented is often what prevents “more fruitful discussing regarding the role of firearms in our country” and added that the problem is society.
“We have become so focused on discussing what we do with guns, that we have almost completely overlooked what guns may do to us,” Myers said.