Pro-gun crowd takes over debate at school (Scott Goss)

A gun control debate took place on the evening of April 16 in the auditorium of Middletown, Delaware, with an audience of some 700 people. As stated in this report, the crowd was preponderantly pro-gun. We noted lots of middle-aged men, a leavening of women wearing red shirts, loads of state police, etc., and few if any of the students who had so much to say about this issue after the Parkland, FL shooting. However, this point is somewhat overstated by: (1) running a large, fromt page picture of a pro-gun activist, which was taken at a demonstration outside the General Assembly earlier. The man’s head is cropped so that only his crossed arms, lower torso and legs with an ominously dangling weapon (“modern sporting rifle deemed an assault rifle") and other accessories can be seen; (2) statement that the pro-gun crowd “jeered politicians on both sides” (the jeers were primarily directed at politicians advocating tighter gun controls); and (3) claim that the audience “got in as many words as the two Democrats and two Republicans on stage” (all panelists were allowed to speak, although the anti-gun panelists were undeniably heckled, and audience members who attempted to shout comments or ask questions rather than submitting their questions on cards were repeatedly admonished to keep quiet).

The stated purpose of the debate was to educate Delawareans about gun control measures that are under consideration and promote a rational exchange of views. Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) and Kathy Jennings, Esq. (formerly a DE prosecutor, who is running for AG this year) advocated tighter limits on guns, while Sen. Anthony Delcollo (R-Christiana) and Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) generally took the other sign of the argument. The most hotly contested issues were whether there should be an “assault weapon” (e.g., AR-15) ban and the proposed increase in the minimum age to buy long guns from 18 to 21. Some highlights of the discussion are recapped in the article, e.g., it was argued that an assault weapons ban (which was in effect at a national level from 1994 to 2004) resulted in a sharp decline in mass shooting deaths that began to rise again when the ban was lifted, whereas the pro-gun panelists denied that such a pattern had been proven and suggested that the proposed abridgement of constitutional rights should not be proposed without clear and convincing evidence. The pattern was likened to a well-known scenario in school, in which everyone is punished because one student misbehaved.

Also, why not focus on actions that were generally supported by both sides, e.g., beefing up school security and following up on people who have demonstrated dangerous tendencies (as the shooter in the Parkland, FL massacre certainly did) instead of focusing on how to deprive people of their gun rights?

Afterwards, according to the story, “gun-rights supporters and gun-control advocates agreed that the debate was worthwhile even if it did little to bridge any divides on the issue.” It would be safe to say gun rights vs. gun controls will come up repeatedly during the upcoming election campaigns – quite possibly eclipsing discussion of other issues that may be equally or more important.
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