Shootings, gun regulations draw controversy


Nick Privitera

An eye peers down the metal sights. Lungs expand and deflate. A twitch of a finger starts a chain reaction as the trigger is pulled. In an instant, the firing pin strikes the primer of a bullet or shell, forming a spark, which ignites the gunpowder and launches the projectile forward through the barrel in the desired direction.

According to the Pew Research Center, about one in three Americans owns a firearm. Vehement debate surrounds the purpose and place of guns in American society. Political action groups lobby for their protection or for their control.

The U.S. has had more public mass shootings than any other country, according to a study published by University of Alabama professor Adam Lankford. There have been 90 mass shootings in the U.S. The country with the second most shootings is the Philippines with 18. Yet, a Pew Research Center survey found that more than half the country supports the right to own guns.

A study by the American Journal of Medicine shows that gun ownership rates in the U.S. are associated with firearm related death rates, but surveys from the Department of Justice also show that guns deter crime. With so much conflicting information, it can be hard to determine what is true.

“I think it is a very divided issue,” said John Denton, a sophomore majoring in biology. “I think that there are very good points on both sides, and I think there is a lot of inability of people to understand 
each other.”

Some people would have all guns taken away, while others want unconditional open-carry licenses. However, some take a more balanced approach, such as gun owner Trey Reed, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.

“I feel like we could make them harder to get,” Reed said. “That probably wouldn’t be a bad thing, but I don’t want them to become to hard to get, to where they control everybody’s. There is a difference between wanting guns to be harder to get and being afraid of guns and not wanting anybody to have them.”

Both Denton and Reed spoke about keeping guns out of the hands of mentally unstable individuals to help prevent future tragedies. Both mentioned a need for more rigorous background checks to ensure those seeking firearm ownership are doing so for legitimate reasons, such as home and personal defense, recreational shooting or hunting.

Recently, Ethan Schmidt, a history professor at Delta State University, was fatally shot on campus, unnerving many students and staff. The list goes on with violence on college campuses.

The University had its own experience with the threat of gun violence. Last year, the Authur Pendragon scare sent the campus into a virtual lock down for fear of violence spread through rumor. No students were harmed in this situation, but that is not always the case.

According to the UAPD Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, in the past three years, there have been 15 cases of illegal weapon possession on the University’s campus. This does not account for illegal guns used in crimes on campus. While there have been no gun-related homicides on campus, guns have been involved in 
several robbery cases.

Tuscaloosa has experienced its share of gun violence, especially in the downtown area, which lies less than three miles from the UA campus. In July 2012, Nathan Van Wilkins opened fire at Copper Top bar and was subsequently charged with the attempted murder of 18 people, three of which were UA students, according to an article published by The Crimson White. More recent events include an April 2015 shooting and a 2014 Fourth of July shooting, both of which occurred at Kennedy’s Bar, which has since closed its doors at the urging of the Tuscaloosa Ci ty Council due to the prevalence of violence. According to an article by The Tuscaloosa News, over 100 violent crimes were reported at Kennedy’s since, seven of which were gun-related.