Revamped gun control debate deepens rift among political parties

For junior Dietrich Kuhlmann, a Colorado native, knowing victims or those affected by mass shootings such as the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is not new. He has personal ties to the Aurora theater shooting in 2012 – his grandparents’ landlord is the grandfather of a woman who was paralyzed and lost her child in the shooting – and has friends who are MSD alumni.

Following the MSD school shooting in which 17 people died after a gunman opened fire inside the school, Kuhlmann decided to write his congressional representative Diana DeGette. Kuhlmann, a double major in marine science and geology, said he has become frustrated with the lack of action on Capitol Hill.

“I’m devastated and frustrated with how stagnant things have been,” Kuhlmann said. “Frankly, I’m embarrassed to live in a country where we have a reputation for having a bunch of maniacs running around with guns killing people.”

The massacre of MSD, the deadliest school shooting in Florida’s history, happened only about 50 miles from UM’s Coral Gables campus and sent shockwaves through the South Florida community. The shooting has led to protests for stricter gun control laws and “walk outs” nationally.

But some high schools have discouraged students from participating in gun-reform walkouts by threatening suspension consequences. In response, colleges and universities across the country, such as Brown University and Boston University, have released statements promising high schoolers that getting suspended for exercising First Amendment rights will not hurt their chances at admission.

On Feb. 26, UM followed by releasing a statement indicating that though UM requires student applicants to disclose disciplinary actions as part of its admission process, the university will not punish an application if the admissions committee determines the discipline to be a result of freedom of expression.

“Universities are a place where students gain knowledge and insight, and we support and respect the views of our students,” the statement read.

An event called “Canes Care for Eagles March” is set to take place at 11 a.m. Feb. 28 on campus starting at the Rock Plaza. The event is being organized by MSD alumni and other UM students to “stand against gun violence.”

UM College Democrats have started a new movement called “Disarm Hate,” calling for “policy change, not ‘thoughts and prayers.'”

President of UM College Democrats Angelica Duque said it’s “unacceptable” mass shootings have continued to occur in the United States.

“We are tired of Republicans sending their thoughts and prayers and failing to blame lenient gun laws, while they continue to receive donations from the NRA,” said Duque, a junior majoring in political science. “We demand common sense gun control.”

But the UM student body remains divided over gun control, with some students saying the Parkland shooting only strengthens their position that more guns in the right hands would make society safer

“It would be illogical to take away semiautomatic weapons,” said Daniel LaRose, the public relations chair of College Republicans. “Guns are still going to get into the hands of evil-doers.”

LaRose, a sophomore electronic media major, said the high rate of murder in places such as Chicago is evidence that gun control does not always lead to increased safety. Chicago had 650 murders in 2017, according to city records, despite having some of the strictest gun laws in the United States.

However, LaRose said he does support President Donald Trump’s latest proposal to raise the age to legally purchase a firearm to 21 and end the sale of bump stocks or attachments that enable semiautomatic rifles to act as fully automatic.

“If it’s something that will help even marginally, I’m all for it, as long as it doesn’t infringe on Second Amendment rights,” LaRose said.

Both Duque and LaRose referenced gun laws in nations such as Switzerland, Australia and Japan – all countries with significantly stricter gun laws than the United States. Though Duque said that a ban on semiautomatic weapons would lead to decreased violence, LaRose said he believes such a ban would be unconstitutional.

Despite the revamped focus on gun control, UM political science professor Gregory Koger said it’s still unlikely lawmakers will make any changes to gun regulations.

“I expect our elected Republican representatives to extend their ‘thoughts and prayers’ and then do exactly nothing,” Koger said. “I expect some Democrats to call for minimal reforms, such as universal background checks, but accomplish nothing because they can’t get their proposals on the legislative agenda.”

Twenty-seven graduates of MSD currently attend UM, and 128 alumni have attended the university since 2006.

MSD students and survivors of the shooting have also organized “March For Our Lives,” a nationwide march resembling the massive Women’s March, which will take place March 24 in Washington, D.C. and in cities around the country.