by Dariel Chaidez
On October First, 2017, the United States was faced with the deadliest mass shooting to have occurred it’s history. At 9:59 pm, Stephen Paddock of Nevada fired hundreds of rounds of shots into a crowd of over 20,000. The Route 91 Country Music Festival was wrapping up its final performance Sunday night when Paddock began firing into the crowd from the 32nd floor or the famed Mandalay Bay hotel. On November 5, a rural Texas church was rocked with gunfire and death during a Sunday morning service. The gunman killed 26 people in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This tragic event is unfortunately but the latest deadly occurrence to have taken place in recent American history.
When situations like this arise, they tend to bring all the trauma and sadness of similar events back into our collective consciousness. We might remember instances like the Orlando Nightclub Shooting, or the San Bernardino Incident, or even Sandy Hook or Columbine. It may seem to us that events like this have been occurring at a much more frequent rate than in past time, it seems this way because it is true. Mass shooting and public acts of violence are reaching pandemic proportions in the United States and we as citizens are becoming ever more aware of this, but how do we feel about it?
Here at North Park we can recall the Umpqua Community College shooting in 2015. For many, this event brought the violence that occurred across the continent right to the front step of every educational institution in the nation. We as college students have an immense and often untapped voice in the national debate regarding violence and ultimately, gun control. Armament has always been an integral part of American life. From the Revolutionary War, to taking Indian land for settlement in the West, to securing our spot as the world’s only hegemon, America clearly loves its guns. But what about when they are used against the very people they were intended to protect?
The population of the United States has for some time become more and more polarized between opinion, status, and political party affiliation. Never before in our history as a nation has our people been so sharply divided between blue and red. As seen in the heated election of 2016, the ugly underbelly of America was put on display for the entire world to see. Our forefathers intended their posterity to be a united, cohesive group of people that through their different ideologies could find a common ground and serve the common good. In the 239 years of American existence we have managed to move as far away from our intended future into one filled with nothing but factions, each vying for their dogmas to be the one and only. America is founded on the principles of purple, but has since moved so far apart into red and blue that the mixing of colors does not even cross the average mind.
This information is important to note because of how it affects the debate on gun control. America is now a land of division; and in simple and very rudimentary terms, the right wants guns, the left does not. The traditional argument goes something along the lines of this from the right: “We as the right believe in the second amendment. It is our right to protect ourselves against any threat and with the proper training and screening, guns work to serve and protect us, not to harm us.” and from the left respectively: “We as the left respect the second amendment, but it does not apply to our generation as it did to the founding generation. There has been far too much unwarranted death in our nation for us to continue to leave the system as is, it would ultimately lead to much more violence. Even the capability of guns to kill when put in the wrong hands is enough for them to be controlled.” These two stereotypical arguments are an agglomeration of the two sides of the national debate and do not reflect the personal opinions of members of the left or right as they can and do lie in spots all across the ideological spectrum.
The debate is not as clear cut as my model and when we take a closer look in the local debate we can see how tricky gun control politics is. North Park University is a very unique place for such a debate to take place. We are Christian, yet we accept all people. We practice a degree of conservativeness yet we are located in Chicago, a city that bleeds blue and adheres to liberalism. We have commuter students who live within 10 minutes of campus, we have students who come from the heartlands of America, and we have students that live across oceans, yet we are all in one place, breathing the same air and contributing to a dialogue that gets more varied with each new person that offers his or her voice. North Park is a peculiar place, but it is an important part of figuring out what we are to do. Most North Parkers would agree that there is a stark contrast between the student population. History student Hannah Geil states that, “[North Park] is extremely bipolar and everyone knows who’s who.” But what does this mean for the gun debate? What is it that we believe? Well, the truth is is that there is really just no consensus.
As a campus we are a patchwork of ideology, not a mixture. In the case of NPU’s right, Sophomore Thomas Harris commented on his feelings about gun control, “People in the United States should always have the right to bear arms. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Someone needs to pull the trigger.” First year student Roberto Martinez stated, “I would never defend disarming citizens no matter what. We can have all the rules in the world, that doesn’t mean that criminals will abide by rules.” North Park’s right continues an in-depth look at the importance of keeping the second amendment sacred.
In defense of a more leftist thought, Hannah Geil commented, “I’m not opposed [to gun control]. In Korea they made guns illegal and they have a low gun violence rate. There is a possibility it could work.” Emily Cardona, a Junior, expressed, “ I think there is no reason why someone should be allowed to own a [firearm like a] machine gun. You don’t need it to hunt. You don’t need it for protection. A rifle or handgun will do. I think going to the extreme of no guns for everyone is bad, but I also know that the system is messed up. Look how many people have died due to gun violence.” The left at North Park speaks of the issue in a humanistic way, stressing the importance of keeping people safe and preserving life at any cost.
As seen, the polarization seen in our nation has taken form on our very campus. The left and right differ greatly and neither seem to think that NPU is a safe place for healthy dialogue. Ms. Geil states, “I feel as though this campus is not a safe place to voice my opinion because I will get attacked by others who don’t share my view.” For the debate on gun control, this means that a consensus will most likely not be found in the near future. As a campus and as a nation, compromise and consideration are the two most important goals we should strive to achieve. With these two facets of humanity there is but a small glimmer of hope. In the meantime, it is imperative that we keep the memory of the victims of gun violence in our minds and in our hearts. We can keep an open mind to the possibility that the violence will soon cease, and compromise will exist.