Up in Arms: Kids and Guns

Reese Bentzinger

In 2016, firearms were the main weapons used by 10-19 year-olds in homicide cases.

This is one of the statistics on the pamphlet for Up in Arms, a debate about gun laws hosted by American Public Square last Thursday. Panelists Karen Randolph Rogers, Dr. Shayla Sullivant, Robert VerBruggen and Kevin L. Jamison engaged in a heated discussion about whether something is being done to address minors handling guns.

Jamison, and attorney and NRA member, believes his organization teaches proper gun safety.

“It doesn’t teach kids to touch guns,” he said. “It teaches kids not to touch guns.”

While all the panelists agreed guns should be stored safely, they disagreed on how gun storage should be handled. Sullivant, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, believes we should be doing more than teaching proper gun safety.

“Kids can tell us they don’t touch a gun, but they touch a gun,” argued Sullivant, a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Sullivant brought up the minor patients injured by guns that she’s seen over the years, as well as some grieving parents. She stated that she doesn’t ask or condemn parents about gun ownership, but simply gives them advice on how to handle guns in a house with children.

All the panelists agreed that this was a good way to educate gun-owning parents on safety.

From left: Karen Randolph Rogers, Shayla Sullivant, Robert VerBruggen, Kevin L. Jamison and Steve Kraske discuss gun violence. (Source American Public Square)

Statistics were another topic of contention. When a statistic about how gun control laws in other countries slowed down crime rates, many in the audience broke the no-clapping rule.

Deputy managing editor of National Review, Robert Verbruggen, disagreed with this use of statistics as an arguing point.

“Why does the CDC have to be the ones conducting the research?” the NRA member asked, later describing the organization as “toxic” to gun owners.

Throughout the evening, the question about whether our gun laws are strong enough loomed in the air. Jamison and Verbruggen beleive the laws as they stand are fine, and worry that any additional laws could infringe on their rights.

Sullivant and fellow panelist Karen Randolph Rogers, however, think the rate of gun violence shows the need for change.

“We’re not anti-gun, we’re anti-gun violence,” said Randolph Rogers, the deputy chapter lead of the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action.

Towards the end of the night, the sound of civility bells rose above the voices of the panelists in their passionate debate, making sure that the discussion remained civil.

Despite the heated debate, at the end of the night both sides admitted that a key to solving gun violence is understanding the other side and working together every step of the way.

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