The Center for the Study of Citizenship held an open dialogue to discuss gun control in Michigan on Oct. 17 in the Student Center.
Brian Dickerson, a Detroit Free Press columnist, moderated the dialogue by starting with an open presentation and debate featuring Linda Brundage, executive director of the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and James Makowski, corporate counsel to the Michigan Gun Owners Association.
Organizers acted as directors by instructing participants to be open and kind as they listened to the panelists and then each other in roundtable discussions.
Among the organizers was Uroob Rahman, a senior nutrition and food science student who has been with the CSC for three years. She encouraged attendees to be ready and willing to hear new opinions.
“It’s a conversation, rather than people just yelling at each other because the most important thing is that we need to talk about this,” said Rahman.
Rahman stressed the importance of conversation that can inform people on all sides of the argument.
“All of my friends are people who think like me. Here, coming to an event that is not full of my friends, I am exposed to different opinions,” Rahman said.
Brundage discussed the importance of gun safety and the responsibility to protect one another while remembering the stories behind the statistics.
“If all we know are the numbers, [it's] much easier to turn away from the problem. I encourage you to think about the people,” Brundage said.
She was met with opposition from Makowski, who the enforcement of gun laws and the support of gun owners.
“Our gun laws are far stricter than they need to be already, but we need to enforce the existing gun laws, said Makowski. “There is no need to further restrict lawful citizens from owning firearms.”
Makowski said gun law reform would put people more at risk without protection, and the focus should be on the laws currently in place.
“We need to enforce the laws we do have,” Makowski said. “The bottom line is that no laws that are passed are going to stop gun violence.”
Dickerson guided the discussion on issues of gun violence, like background checks and the type of guns citizens should have access to.
Brundage called for the restriction of “anything that would be normally considered a weapon of war,” while Makowski said he couldn’t “see any reason why we should keep a law abiding citizen from purchasing any gun on the market.”
Brundage spoke about the access to guns as a factor of gun related deaths. She said 40 percent of guns sold in the U.S. are sold without background checks, relating them to laws like Michigan’s that do not regulate the private sales of firearms.
After the formal presentation, Dickerson opened up the discussion where the audience talked about the topics in small groups.
Makowski said gun ownership is a protected right, adding, “there is no good reason to restrict private gun ownership.” Brundage asked people to think about the lives affected by gun violence and to ask for stricter gun laws.
“Too often, these conversations are filled with numbers and statistics, but aren’t statistics just really numbers with the tears washed off?” Brundage asked.