Bully PulPitt hosts discussion on gun violence

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Bully PulPitt hosts discussion on gun violence

Junior English writing major Jack Habib discusses suicide statistics at Wednesday night’s “Let’s Talk Gun Violence” event in the William Pitt Union. (Photo by Brian Gentry | Contributing Editor)

Junior English writing major Jack Habib discusses suicide statistics at Wednesday night’s “Let’s Talk Gun Violence” event in the William Pitt Union. (Photo by Brian Gentry | Contributing Editor)

Junior English writing major Jack Habib discusses suicide statistics at Wednesday night’s “Let’s Talk Gun Violence” event in the William Pitt Union. (Photo by Brian Gentry | Contributing Editor)

Junior English writing major Jack Habib discusses suicide statistics at Wednesday night’s “Let’s Talk Gun Violence” event in the William Pitt Union. (Photo by Brian Gentry | Contributing Editor)

By Sam Weber, Staff Writer

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Gun violence is one of the most divisive issues in American culture today, but the UPTV-based nonpartisan political television show “The Bully PulPitt” set out to investigate that issue through discussion on Wednesday night.

The Bully PulPitt’s “Let’s Talk — Gun Violence” discussion in the William Pitt Union Lower Lounge, focused on educating students on the reasons behind violence in different settings, organized as domestic, police, suicide, mass shooting and homicide.

“We don’t expect to find the solution to gun violence in one night,” the event’s Facebook description said. “What we do hope is to be able to begin discussing what people have been telling us to talk about for so long.”

Executive producer Annabelle Hanflig and the staff of The Bully PulPitt divided the group of nearly 30 students into five groups, each with their own starting point for the discussion. The groups, once seated together, listened to some words of advice for the night from Hanflig.

“This discussion isn’t about being afraid of this topic,” Hanflig said. “We’re here to be able to be wrong while learning truth.”

One group consisted of senior nursing major Zoe Klingenberg, senior economics and math major Nick Pagano, junior finance major Greg Carlson and senior industrial engineering major Jahari Mercer.

That group of students were from drastically different backgrounds, but all having prior exposure to firearms. Through the event, the group was able to engage in a conversation about what can help in reaching solutions to gun violence.

The discussion began with a statement from moderator Vikaas Arunkumar meant to prompt conversation.

“Studies have shown that when people address the community instead of the government, better results come through,” Arunkumar said. “Some areas, like Chicago, have brought in ex-gang leaders to try and rehabilitate the community.”

In the conversation on gun homicide, the first to offer an idea about this situation was senior political science major Katie Vossler with a statement about the lack of understanding that people have about gun control.

“There’s huge pressure for a top-down reform by the government, taking away guns as a go-to idea while talking and understanding is more helpful,” Vossler said. “People think it would be easier to have a national movement against guns when community outreach is so much more usable and practical.”

As the session on homicide came to a close, the group moved to the topic of mass shootings and their impact in American society. After initially looking over a fact sheet distributed by the presenters, SGB executive vice president Jahari Mercer said he was shocked at how minor the impact of recent mass shootings had been in reference to total annual death by gun violence.

“I don’t understand the need to be able to buy what many times began its use as a military weapon,” Mercer said. “The fact that the use of these types of weapons is possible, but barely makes a dent in annual deaths is horrifying.”

The next discussion focused on gun violence and domestic abuse, the discussion centering on the social, sexual and racial issues in which problems arise and result in violence.

Klingenberg said it’s often a problem in these situations that healthcare professionals don’t seriously screen for domestic violence in their patients.

“I’ve seen in the health care system that, even when someone comes in and is asked if they are abused, they aren’t recognized for it, and that the medical field needs to take this more seriously,” she said.

The next discussion centered on police-based violence. The moderator for this discussion, political science major and columnist for The Pitt News Jeremy Wang, cited from personal experience interning with the police that police departments are often spread thin, and the regulations behind use of deadly force will vary in different locations.

Senior economics and math major Nick Pagano said he has seen how proper integration with officers can limit the fear of them and therefore better understand the regulation behind use of force.

“The job of the police is to make people feel safer than normal,” Pagano said. “Solely seeing them as an antagonist in situations, even when we are at fault only promotes the fear-mongering in reactionary actions to the police.”

The final discussion before wrapping up the night was that of suicide and gun use. The most prevalent suicide rates by gun use were in white males over the age of 45, a statistic that caused a decrease in the average life expectancy of the average American male for the first time in 70 years.

Junior Finance major Greg Carlson referenced how he had heard before that individuals who need help do not always seek it out.

“In places like here, for instance, people have all the possibilities to get help when they need it,” Carlson said. “It’s a matter of people don’t always know where to go, or they don’t want to feel like they are different than everyone else.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly cited Hanflig as the speaker of the quote which is the description of the event on Facebook. This story also previously reported Klingenberg’s major and that she said domestic violence victims weren’t taken seriously – Klingenberg was referring to her perception that healthcare professionals don’t adequately screen for domestic violence in their patients. This story has been updated. 

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