Political Union hosts heated gun discussion

Meghan Morris/Daily Senior Staffer

Political Union president Steven Monacelli debates with Illinois State Rifle Assocation vice president Mike Weisman. The debate, held at the Buffett Center, focused on gun control laws.

Meghan Morris, Reporter
January 14, 2013 •

In the wake of high-profile mass shootings and Chicago’s deadliest year on record, the Northwestern Political Union hosted Monday night a discussion about gun control.

Mike Weisman, vice president of the Illinois State Rifle Association, spoke with about 25 students at the Roberta Crown Buffett Center about firearm regulation. The two-hour-long discussion included debates about the Second Amendment, the legality of an assault weapons ban and gun culture in America.

Political Union co-president Steven Monacelli said the organization brought in an expert on gun rights instead of hosting a debate among students to better facilitate conversation. The group typically debates a resolution and votes on the argument, but Monday's event was intended as a discussion-based forum.

“While there may be a majority of opinion at Northwestern, there are people who do not share that same viewpoint,” the Communication senior said.

During the contentious debate, Monacelli, a former Daily staffer, repeatedly reminded students to remain respectful. When a student was in the middle of speaking about his pro-gun stance, another interrupted by saying, “What the hell does that mean?”

A number of international students in the room expressed discomfort with American gun culture. Dor Srebernik, a Weinberg junior from Israel who served three years as a paratrooper in the Israeli army, said he would like to see increased gun control in the United States.

Political affiliations ran the spectrum, and opinions on the issue of gun control and legislation were diverse. Weinberg sophomore Kevin Lee said he does not think any guns should be legal, while Weinberg sophomore Steven Peterson said the entire conversation of pro-gun proponents must shift.

“We’ve done a really bad job of focusing on gun control only after a mass shooting,” Peterson said. “The reason we should have guns isn’t to prevent mass shootings, but (to prevent) the smaller shootings, the smaller-scale events.”

Weisman, the ISRA representative, began his opening remarks by tracing his own relationship with gun rights, beginning as a child in a home where guns were not allowed. He said he enjoyed speaking with a group he called the “future leaders” of the country.

“I remember what it was like to be young and have high ideals,” Weisman said. “You come to this with very highly polarized positions.”

He said much of the polarization comes from what he called media sensationalizing of mass shootings, such as the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in mid-December that resulted in the death of 26 people, including 20 children.

“There’s a lot of misinformation, and there’s a lot of hysterical news coverage,” he said. “The nonstop news coverage is why we have mass shootings among the country among the mentally ill people.”

Though much of the discussion centered around mass shootings, Weisman also spoke specifically about Chicago’s history of gun legislation. His organization sponsored a lawsuit against Chicago’s 28-year-old handgun ban, which the Supreme Court overturned in 2010.

“Chicago had a gun ban since the early '80s. and it didn’t make it a safe place,” Weisman said. “It did brainwash the law-abiding public into believing guns are bad.”

Monacelli said the discussion was an opportunity for students to open up their minds on an extremely controversial issue.

“Hopefully people got to hear why the NRA does what they do, and hopefully students are able to refine their thoughts on gun rights walking away from this,” he said.

A previous version of this article contained imprecise language suggested Weinberg sophomore Steven Peterson represented anti-gun control beliefs. Peterson is actually in favor of increased gun control. The Daily regrets the error.

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