Students debate mayoral guns initiative

On April 5, Wake Forest students, faculty and staff received a message from the Office of Communications regarding recent crime on campus.

Graphic by Ben Perry/Old Gold & Black

Graphic by Ben Perry/Old Gold & Black

“The student said one man pulled him into the car,” read the broadcast message. “The men, who were armed with a pistol, demanded money.”

Besides causing some alarm, the story added to an increasing list of examples of gun violence across the country, which have sparked debate amongst lawmakers, politicians, citizens and students alike over safety and the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Last week, the Senate approved further dialogue regarding increased gun control measures.  While legislation has not yet been passed, the vote does mark one of the first steps towards reforms.

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition chaired by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, which aims to unite mayors across the United States to prevent gun violence.

The coalition announced recently that it will begin airing advertisements in North Carolina, in order to promote action by Senator Kay Hagan for gun control reforms.

According to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 90 percent of North Carolina voters support background checks for all gun sales.  The new ads will portray North Carolina gun owners who support expanded gun control legislation, in order to demonstrate support of the legislation to Senator Hagan.

Outside of Winston-Salem, many other North Carolina mayors have also voiced their support for gun control legislation.

“A background check is one of our best means of keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Bill Bell, Mayor of Durham, said.

Bell also noted that as much as 40 percent of all gun transfers occur without any background check. In the wake of events like the Newtown and Colorado shootings, college campus violence and crime even on the Wake Forest campus, students have developed their own positions and concerns.

“The President offered various proposals to help tackle gun violence such as an assault weapons ban, a ban of high capacity magazines and clips, and universal background checks,” Gerard Neely, a former leader in College Democrats, said.

Increased background checks, which would prevent criminals and the mentally ill from purchasing firearms, has been proposed as a solution that both sides could potentially support.

Other suggested changes include bans on various types of weapons and ammunition. However, these have caused significant dissension among state representatives, with conservative leaders citing the Second Amendment rights, and legislators from more rural states expressing their own unique concerns.

“It seems to me Republicans do want to find a way to achieve some sort of effective legislation but they are unwilling to budge on a lot of key measures, typically linked to specific weapon bans,” Tyler Slezak, a member of College Republicans who worked for Mitt Romney’s campaign, said.

As legislators continue to debate the issue, increased background checks may serve as a compromise, but not all are in agreement about their effectiveness of, either.

“Universal background checks will help prevent criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining firearms,” said Neely.

“However, I think in the near future we need an assault weapons ban, because there is no need for weapons of war to be on the street.”

Though some are in support of even further restrictions on firearms, nationwide support has proven difficult to garner among constituencies of varied political, social, and even geographical positions.

“Bans really wouldn’t make much difference in terms of gun violence from my perspective, because criminals or mentally-unstable individuals who desire access to a gun to commit a crime would ultimately find a way,” Slezak said.

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