Panel discusses gun ownership on campus

By Gretchen Andersen

Dropped jaws and lifted eyebrows followed Judy Brown’s rebuttal during a panel discussion on… Dropped jaws and lifted eyebrows followed Judy Brown’s rebuttal during a panel discussion on gun ownership held last night on campus.

“As a woman, I want the right to carry my gun in any city or municipality … and on this campus.”

Her comments came during a heated discussion of gun rights hosted by Pitt’s College Democrats, College Republicans and the Pi Sigma Alpha political science honors society. The event quickly turned into an impromptu debate, with rebuttals from both sides of the table and moderator Richard White keeping strict track of each speaker’s two-minute time limit. About 60 students attended the discussion in David Lawrence Hall.

Both sides of the panel — those supporting strict gun regulation and those for looser restrictions — reflected opinions being voiced on college and university campuses across the country in an issue intensified in the wake of the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the introduction of gun ownership bills in a number of state legislatures.

Kicking off the debate was a discussion focusing on how effective the lost or stolen handgun ordinance was in a municipality, and whether it could reduce straw purchases, when someone buys a gun for someone else who isn’t allowed to for himself.

Pittsburgh City Coucilman Bruce Kraus, who has sponsored legislation to crack down on the illegal spread of firearms, said he believes stricter regulation will protect city residents.

“Illegal handguns have been flooding the streets for years,” he said to the crowd.

In rebuttal, Kim Stolfer, panelist and chairman of the Firearms Owners Against Crime political action committee, encouraged the audience to “remember their freedoms,” and stressed that legislators need to focus on targeting criminals — not law-abiding citizens.

“Lost or stolen ordinance is a facade to make you think they are doing something about crime — but they are not,” Stolfer said.

The discussion veered toward personal attacks at some points during the hour-and-a-half event, with White, the WPTS Radio news director, occasionally playing mediator.

During a question regarding whether there should be a longer waiting period before purchasing a handgun, Pitt political science professor Susan Hansen said there is a lack of enforcement of waiting periods under existing laws. She said the public supports the right to bear arms but also supports enforcing existing gun laws more strictly.

“Just because people break the speeding limit does not mean that we shouldn’t have speeding limits,” Hansen said. “Just because enforcement isn’t fully adequate does not mean we should abandon efforts of regulation and deterrents.”

Taking center stage toward the end of the night was the issue of guns on campus. Currently, Utah is the only state whose schools do not ban the carrying of concealed weapons on their campuses. Texas is now considering the same measure, moving toward a full House vote.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website, there are 22 states whose laws ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus. The website also reported that Pennsylvania is one of the 25 states in which the “decision to ban or allow concealed carry weapons on campuses is made by the each college or university individually.”

Pitt does not allow the concealed carrying of firearms on its campus.