Polarized political views are creating problems in the current national conversation on gun violence and policy following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., which took the lives of 27 people this past December.
In Washington, the National Rifle Association (NRA) publicly announced it would lobby for armed security guards in all American schools, suggesting the media and video games as the main issue, not gun policy.
Not long after, President Barack Obama, in one of his first acts following his inauguration, called on Congress to strengthen gun policy with a list of 23 signed executive orders. These included renewing a controversial 1994 ban on assault weapons which expired in 2004 and requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales.
These acts have left many on either side of the debate arguing over legalities — one of the main arguments is the idea of gun policy as a threat to Second Amendment rights.
Journalism sophomore and Cal Poly College Republicans member Aaron Bandler said this is the heart of the gun control issue.
“The Second Amendment was put there to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government,” he said. “There is no evidence that any sort of gun control lowers crime.”
Another common argument between sides comes from a lack in statistical data proving gun regulations reduce crime.
Computer science freshman Dylan Hardy is a gun owner and self-proclaimed traditionalist. He said there is little evidence of gun control actually lowering crime rates, or having much effect at all.
“Every citizen in Switzerland is required to serve in the military and keep their military-issued, fully automatic rifle in the house, and there isn’t any crime there,” he said. “In the U.S., we have lots of crime and we have lots of guns as well. England does not have many guns but they have a lot of crime — so you can’t use crime to support your idea either way.”
But while no evidence can be claimed to link crime data to gun regulation, recent studies are showing a public shift in America’s views on gun control.
A CBS/New York Times poll found that 54 percent of Americans feel a need to strengthen gun policy compared with 39 percent last April. The poll also found that nine out of 10 Americans would be in favor of a law requiring a criminal background check for all firearm sales.
Business administration sophomore and Cal Poly College Democrats member Cassandra Pelts said she agrees there should be a serious screening process, which would include psychological evaluation and gun safety training. She said she doesn’t think making guns more readily available would solve the issue.
“I’m sorry, but I just don’t think the solution to guns is more guns,” she said.
Physics junior and member of Young Americans for Liberty, a Libertarian-based club, Sanjay Khatry said while he can’t really see anything wrong with a criminal background check for gun owners, the idea makes him nervous.
“I have nothing against background checks, I just don’t want it to get to the point where it all of a sudden becomes a hastle to even get a gun and people don’t want to wait it out,” he said. “That’s what I’m kind of afraid of: when a little incident blows the whole thing up.”
Cal Poly College Democrats President Kayla Clark said she thinks a big problem in coming to a solution on the issue lies in the inability to communicate between political parties. Because the two parties insist on politicizing gun control, nothing is ever going to actually get accomplished, she said.
“We need to step back from polarization,” she said.