After a high number of recent school shootings during the first two months of the year, the gun control debate is taking a center spot in our national conversation. Many call for gun bans, while others have something else in mind.
The president of the UMKC College Republicans, Alad Aguirre, sat down with U-News to share his thoughts on gun control, and how gun debate misconstrues pro-gun arguments.
What was your initial reaction to the recent Parkland high school shooting?
I was devastated. I mean, anytime anything like that happens it’s just awful to hear and to know that that kind of stuff can happen in this country. I was obviously with them (in terms of) thoughts and prayers. I was honestly shocked when I first heard about it, because it was out of nowhere.
Are you for or against guns?
I am pro-guns. I’m not for just anybody anywhere getting guns, but if you are a law-abiding citizen who is able to qualify to buy a gun, then I think you should be able to. So, in that scenario, yes, I am pro-guns.
What do you think are the stereotypes in people’s minds when they see someone who identifies as being “pro-guns”, and how do their stereotypes differ from what you believe is being for guns?
Unfortunately, I think that with this recent school shooting the conversation has sort of veered away from the issue of “how do we protect our children?” and turned into more of just getting rid of guns. I was very saddened by the fact that on the news I haven’t seen much about the victims. There was one story I’ve seen that really touched me and it circulated very briefly. It was about one student who was killed in the shooting who was a member of the ROTC, and he was actually granted a full-military funeral by the United States military.
To answer your question, I think that people who are labeled pro-gun are often seen as gun-clenching individuals who just want it that way and don’t want any sort of conversation, like “you can’t take my guns no matter what.” It’s not that. Personally, I can’t speak for everybody. My gun stance is it’s my constitutional right and part of my freedom to own a gun if I am a law-abiding citizen and if I am in the right mind.
What I think that a lot of people don’t see is that a lot of us who are pro-gun are also open to changing any laws. For example, I would support a recent movement that talks about raising the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21. It makes sense that if you can’t buy alcohol or tobacco until you’re 21, to raise the age.
Another thing is that I’m for considering what types of firearms are actually the best to own. If you’re wanting to buy an automatic rifle you can’t do that as of now, and I fully support that, because no one who’s just a sportsman or a hunter needs an automatic handgun or rifle. I think that the misconception is that we’re all just wanting to have every gun in the world and we can do anything we want with it, but that’s not the case. I just want to ensure that we aren’t stripped of freedom, that’s the most important [thing] I think people need to understand.
How do you view the NRA?
I’ve seen the NRA demonized a lot, especially during this most recent shooting, but the NRA has recently come out with positions in favor of restricting the age of purchasing a weapon. They’ve also come out fully in support of making bump stocks illegal. The NRA is basically just there to promote sportsmanship in terms of firearms, and to support the freedom to ensure the Second Amendment is protected, but they are also willing to have conversations about what’s the best for our country as a whole without over-restricting our citizen’s freedoms.
What’s your opinion on equipping teachers with guns?
I am sort of on the edge about that specific point, because I can see where it could work. I don’t know if I would fully support having every teacher equipped with a firearm, because it would just be so much in terms of a system change. As of now, you can still become a teacher, but that doesn’t ensure that you’re mentally fit, if that makes sense. You can still be a teacher and possibly have a mental illness. If there’s so much stress after so many years or whatever you’ve been going through in your day-to-day life, you could crack. So, as far as having every teacher armed, I don’t think I would support that.
What I think as a more practical solution would be to have more trained officers or trained security guards. Maybe revamp the security system in schools, because that’s the first line of defense. If a shooter can never get in, we don’t have to worry about teachers having guns. I think that it’s more of an outside-in solution. I don’t think it’s a conversation of arming teachers until we’ve fully protected the perimeters of schools and made sure shooters don’t have the opportunity to get into the school.
How do you think we could stop mass shootings?
I’m not for super-heavy gun-control laws, where nobody can purchase guns. But what I do think that needs to happen is that we obviously need to reform our system in terms of a registry and in terms of making sure that people who have a mental illness, not only are treated, but are also put onto watch lists to make sure they can’t hurt themselves nor anybody else. I think that it’s getting better, where we’re actually acknowledging and assisting people with mental illness, but I think it’s still a stigma out there, and there’s still not enough resources for people suffering those illnesses. I’m very in favor any sort of reform that wants to assist people with mental illness. I think that needs to be one of our top issues in the country.
When you hear about countries like the UK, Japan, Australia, etc, that enforced gun laws after experiencing their own school shootings or other mass shootings, and see that their numbers have significantly gone down, what do you think about it?
That’s very interesting, because I have seen those same statistics, and I can see sort of how that could be a valid argument. However, the reason that I don’t think that it would work or should work here in America is because our country was founded with the constitution in mind, and that’s our Second Amendment right. The reason it was put in there is because the Founding Fathers escaped a regime that was oppressive. When they came to this country, they wanted to make sure that all the power was to the people, that no higher power would be able to suppress or oppress any individual, and so the reason they put in that amendment for the right to bear arms was to ensure that people can defend themselves in a situation where the government tried to oppress them, or try to take away their freedom. That’s why I believe that here in America just getting rid of guns altogether won’t work, because that’s the principle the country was founded upon.
Do you own gun? If yes, what do you use it for, or have you ever needed to use it in a certain situation?
I personally don’t own a gun, but I do hunt with rifles. They’re just shotguns. Some are just small 22 caliber guns, but you have to cock it every time, it’s not automatic by any means. It’s only meant for hunting deer and ducks. Like I said, I don’t own any personally, but I am trained though. I did take all the courses to be able to handle a handgun, and if I would want to purchase a gun, I’d like to know that I’d be able to without having anything in the way besides a background check and making sure that I’m mentally fit.