*Photo Credit: PittLaw
On Thursday evening, the Bully Pulpitt hosted a debate between Alex Rector, a freshman astronomy and physics major, and Jeremy Wang, a sophomore political science major. The debate, occurring in the aftermath of the Vegas shooting, centered around whether or not the sale and manufacture of large-capacity magazines should be banned.
Alex began by referring to a quote from a survivor of the Vegas attacks, talking about the seemingly never-ending spray of bullets fired into the crowd. He then used this to segway into an argument about why the Vegas shooting demonstrated a need for a ban on high-capacity magazines which, he claimed, allowed the Vegas shooter to fire at such a rapid and consistent rate.
In his argument, Alex claimed that large capacity magazines “increase the lethality of a given single person,” allowing attackers to shoot dozens of rounds of ammunition without having to reload. Additionally, he argued that such magazines are unnecessary for the purposes of self-defense or hunting, citing the examples of US soldiers and police officers who generally carry rounds that are only a fraction of the size of the one used by the Vegas shooter. If smaller magazines are good enough for soldiers and law enforcement, he argued, they are more than enough for private citizens.
Jeremy Wang wasn’t having it, however. Making clear from the beginning that he would be relying heavily on his statistics, Jeremy began by reminding the audience that the vast majority of magazines already in the US exceeded the 10-round cutoff which generally separates large magazines from small magazines. Additionally, If a ban were enacted, Jeremy argued, the 150 million magazines would be grandfathered into a ban, making any ban thoroughly redundant.
Jeremy referenced a study done by the DOJ that concluded a ban on high-capacity magazines did nothing, as an overwhelming majority of gunshot victims are shot only 2-3 times. Touching on the ineffectiveness of laws requiring the registration of high-capacity magazines in Connecticut and assault weapons in New York, Jeremy pointed out that 98% of magazines and 96% of assault weapons remained unregistered by the deadlines.
Alex responded by reiterating his previous statement that a ban on high-capacity magazines was not about gun violence, but about “making it more difficult…to kill a huge amount of people in a small amount of time,” and that high-capacity magazines are not necessary for self-defense.
Stressing the potential of a high-capacity magazine ban to save lives, Alex argued this was about making a difference, and that “If we save one life, that’s still something.”
Jeremy refused to cede any ground, however, insisting that a ban on high-capacity magazines simply wouldn’t save lives. He reasoned that even if a shooter wasn’t able to get his hands on one of the 150 million high-capacity magazines that would be grandfathered in, he would be able to quickly and easily switch out magazines without significantly impacting the rate of fire. He also took aim at the idea that high-capacity clips weren’t important for self-defense, making the point that they could be critical for the elderly or those with disabilities who might struggle to reload, particularly in a high-stress situation.
After these closing arguments, three officers from the Pitt Police were introduced to take questions from the audience about their perspective on high-capacity magazines as well as broader gun issues.
One particularly interesting question came from a member of the audience asking about their thoughts on whether students and professors should be permitted to conceal carry on campus, particularly if they are former military. Two of the officers agreed, with one telling that audience that he credited concealed carry with potentially saving his life on one occasion. He added, however, that “this campus will never even consider it.” A third officer did disagree, however, saying that he feared a student might accidentally leave it laying in a public area.
Another student asked for the officers’ thoughts on the recent demand from radical campus groups that Pitt Police be disarmed and that City of Pittsburgh police be banned from campus. Without skipping a beat, a police sergeant said, “If I’m not allowed to be armed, I’m not working.” His colleagues agreed, with one adding that such an action would make the University an extremely soft target for attackers. He reminded the audience that just a few years ago, the University did have an active shooter situation at the Western Psychiatric building and that it was thanks to the quick response of officers from the Pitt Police that the shooter was incapacitated before potentially hurting far more people.
As for the initial debate, both participants seemed happy with their performances and crediting each other with strong performances. “Most importantly,” said Jeremy Wang, “I think everyone walked out of that room a little bit more informed on that issue.”