UVA Community Discusses Gun Rights, Second Amendment

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Panel discussion at UVA on March 13 Panel discussion at UVA on March 13
UVA professor Gerard Alexander UVA professor Gerard Alexander
UVA lecturer Jim Todd UVA lecturer Jim Todd

In the wake of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the University of Virginia is discussing how to make sure events like it don’t happen there and how the country can move forward.

On Tuesday, March 13, a panel discussed gun rights and responsibilities with students and some people from the community.

Tuesday night’s discussion at UVA’s Minor Hall showed that there are plenty of differing opinions when it comes to gun rights.

"The question is can we work on gun restrictions in ways that don't infringe the rights of people who are using guns in ways that don't harm anyone?” says Gerard Alexander, an associate professor of politics at UVA.

A panel of four professors led the talk, starting the conversation off with what the Second Amendment means.

“The issue is not the amendment, the issue is the simple fact on the ground of the pervasiveness of gun ownership,” says Alexander.

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a law on Friday, March 9, that would tighten gun control in multiple ways and even allow some teachers to be armed.

“No matter what legislatures do, it’s going to end up in the courts and the National Rifle Association has already filed a lawsuit in Florida,” says Jim Todd, a politics lecturer at UVA.

Last year, the Pew Research Center found only 26 percent of Democrats support teachers having guns in K-12 schools versus 69 percent of Republicans. Some say the gun rights issue requires a multifacted approach.

“Education, dealing with the problem of mental health, access to guns, but we can't get any of that done without a general support that's widespread in the community,” says Todd.

Others suggested starting with a singular thing, like eliminating bump stocks.

“Most would agree that we don't need to be able to convert a semi-automatic weapon or gun that shoots when you pull the trigger to one that shoots automatically when you pull the trigger,” says Daman Irby, the director of global initiatives for the UVA Center for Politics. “By starting one, with one policy at a time then you can start to potentially make changes."

The University of Virginia's Center for Politics hosted Tuesday night’s discussion with the help of the student organization Converge, which works with students who have differing opinions to help everyone see varying points of view.

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