In wake of America’s ongoing gun control debate reawakened after the Parkland, Florida shooting on Feb. 14, the majority of BYU-Hawaii students support having more gun control, according to a survey of 200 students conducted by the Ke Alaka’i.
The survey, which was conducted at a booth at the entrance of the Club Dining Services open to students wanting to respond to a set of questions given orally, revealed that 61.5 percent of students are in favor of gun control. No specific legislation or regulatory measure was listed or defined in the survey.
“We’re not trying to take your guns away,” said Madison Smith, a freshman from Washington studying TESOL, to those who are against gun control. “If you are a completely sane healthy person, fine. Own a gun. That’s your decision. I am not trying to take away your right. What I am trying to do is stop people with serious mental health problems who shouldn’t own a gun from owning one.
“By doing that we can keep a lot of people safe and not just [from] mass shootings. Think about how many people get a hold of a gun and shoot their family and shoot anyone because they have a mental health problem or any issue. Those people should not be getting a hold of any kind of weapon. Those people need to be helped.”
Several of the 38.5 percent not in favor of more gun control said they’d prefer addressing psychiatric health and arming teachers.
Shane Laird, a sophomore from Utah studying biomedicine, said, “You can’t control guns and that’s not the problem. It’s the people. One of the main things people focus on is if you get rid of all guns, you get rid of all shootings, but that’s a false dichotomy. ... It doesn’t work that way.”
Of the respondents, 58.5 percent were domestic and 41.5 percent international. Only 42.5 percent of all surveyed said they own a gun in their hometown.
Dr. Brian K. Houghton, associate director of Business, Computing, and Government, advocated for what he called a “common-sense” approach to gun control rather than constant debates between the polarized Right and Left. He said, ”A common-sense approach is what both sides can agree to. If we start there in the middle, then we actually have potential to move forward. Otherwise, nothing happens and it’ll just be tragedy after tragedy that involve mass shootings, accidentals discharges at homes, suicides … and we’ll just let it keep on happening.”
“There isn’t much of a difference between a school shooting and a terrorist attack,” stated Laird. “Both are premeditated and it all comes back to the reason why they are doing it. The students in the school could have been bullied. They could have been ignored or had family problems. There really are a ton of different reasons why people commit these crimes.”
Houghton hopes students will not only focus on singular shooter situations, but also all the aspects of gun violence. “There are a lot less [mass shootings]. Even though they are high profile, we look at what happened in Florida, in schools: Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech. There is no question a lot of people in that singular moment died, but in consideration of all fatalities that take place by guns it is a very small group. I’m not trying to discount it by any means, but I think we need to take a look at the greater whole and not just only mass shootings.”
“Gun violence in the U.S. is a problem,” said Laird. “Violence as a whole in the world is a problem. The U.S. has more guns per capita than any other country in the world.” According to the Congressional Research Service, there are more than 300 million guns in the U.S., more than one gun per American adult.
Laird continued, “When you look at statistics and you compare that to another country, it doesn’t work. Guns are way more accessible here than they are in other countries, so homicides by guns are obviously going to be higher than another country who doesn’t have access to guns.
“I have a gun. I use it for hunting, sport, and self-defense. A misconception is that guns are dangerous. Yes, they can be used for very dangerous means, and they can hurt people very quickly and very easily, but so could a hammer.” Laird referred to a statistic by the FBI that found more people are killed by blunt objects (472) and personal attacks (656) - hands, fists, feet, etc.) - than by shotguns (262) or rifles (374). The 2016 report found that more people were killed by knives or cutting instruments (1,604) than shotguns, rifles, and other guns combined (822).
However, the report also found that 7,105 homicides in 2016 were committed by handguns, the No. 1 weapon used. Of the total 15,070 homicides that year, 11,004 were committed by firearms.
Exposing someone to a gun will help educate them more about gun safety, said Laird. “Most people I know have never been around a gun are terrified of it. They have no other reason to be terrified of it except for being told to be. If they handle a gun, know how it works, they won’t be scared of it.”
Smith advocated for a globally comparative approach. “How often does the U.S. compare itself to other countries and how is this any different? We compare finance, education, [and] life expectancy. Why can’t we compare it about gun control? I don’t think size matters. We can see other countries that are a lot smaller that are a lot worse. We can look at other countries and see what works and what doesn’t work.”
Smith said, “It is a really big problem in the United States. If you look at other countries, they do not have as much gun violence as we do. If we look at how their process is, it is very different from the United States. … If you can recognize that difference, you will know there is something very wrong with our country that needs to be fixed.
The problem and root of violence may still exist with or without guns, Laird explained. “Gun control doesn’t solve the problem. When it comes to people and how they interact with each other, there will always be aggression. If people don’t have access to a gun, they will have access to something else.
“There was a knife attack in China where many were injured and killed just by knives. In the U.K., where there are very strict gun laws they have a very big problem with knife attacks. In Sweden there was a guy who used a truck to plow over people. These mass killings are going to happen with or without guns. Anyone who wants to commit a violent act will use anything at their disposal.”
In March 2018, The Washington Post published results from a poll taken by the Economist and YouGov stating that one in five Americans want to repeal the second amendment.
The second amendment is foundational, said Houghton, and a necessity. “It is what the founding fathers put into the Bill of Rights. There are some people that say it was only made for militia, but if you look at the time they wanted to make sure that everyone had the right to have a weapon to protect themselves, whether it be from the British coming back or hostiles around them. That way they could be self-reliant instead of reliant on the national military. It is a very foundational core [belief]. It is No. 2, not No. 10. It is felt to be an important right.
“There are people who have said, ‘Well things have changed overtime. We don’t need it. We aren’t worried about the British or French invading,’ and that’s true. It is something that has over 200 years of acceptance. What it has led to is a country full of guns. Knowing political reality, there are so many people that are so pro-second amendment, the call for an amendment is dead on arrival. It is just not going to happen.”
According to Time Magazine, there have been 306 school shootings in the past five years. Smith said she thinks better protocol would keep students safe. “People don’t go over what to do in a school shooting. They tell kids to go sit against the wall. That’s how you get killed.
“There are specific guidelines on how to take a shooter down. It says you need to fight. We are not taught those in schools. There are not specific measures. There are not plans. Everyone gets frantic and they hide and get scared. We need to teach people what to do and how to prepare. That so, if a shooting happens, people won’t be as terrified and they will know what to do to be safe.”
The best thing BYUH students can do is get a well-balanced educated from a variety of sources, Houghton urged. “Try not to be educated by just listening to one side. Try to look for the common ground. Try to look for information from bipartisan groups or look at a variety of news sources. We need to look for ways to come together. A well-balanced education is what is necessary, not a one-sided education or lack of education. Learn more about it, but make sure it is a balanced approach.”
Houghton recommends students check out the “incredible information about gun violence” at the Rand Corporation, or Rand.org. “I just had information come out recently that they have been working on for two years. … They’re also bipartisan. It is not taking a left or a right bend on things. They look at all possible gun control measures, and you can see evidence on what has worked and what not has worked.”
NOTE: Limitations to the survey conducted include but are not limited to volunteer bias and response bias.