1.31.19 intern blog

Duke University Hosts Panel on Reducing Gun Violence

January 31, 2018

    Duke University students, faculty, and staff, along with residents of the Durham community, gathered on campus Tuesday evening for a student-organized panel on reducing gun violence. Co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice-Provost, panelists included professors from numerous schools within the University, including Professor Phillip Cook from the Sanford School of Public Policy, Professors Darrell Miller and Joseph Blocher from the Law School, and Professor Jeffrey Swanson from the School of Medicine.

    David Prisch, a junior majoring in Political Science, put the panel together after the tragic Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburg, which occurred in October of this past year. Prisch stated that “even if we can’t eliminate hatred and violence, we can do more to curtail their power to destroy”. The event was moderated by Carlee Goldberg, a student from Parkland, Florida who has experienced the devastating consequences of gun violence first-hand. The panel brought together experts from various fields to discuss opportunities to progress in tackling this multifaceted problem.


Outlined below is a brief summary of the panelists’ responses to the moderator questions.


Q: How do we make gun ownership safer in America?

    Professor Swanson emphasized the necessity for the implementation of consistent gun ownership laws across the fifty states, however sweeping laws are much more difficult to implement after DC v. Heller (2008). He noted that the current ownership criteria is flawed in that it does not correlate with potential risk. Professor Blocher added that “people too often think you have to make a choice between gun rights and regulations, but that’s not true as a matter of history or a matter of doctrine”.


Q: What are the interesting trends in gun regulation?

    Professor Cook explained that “the tectonic shift in gun politics happened in 2018 with the Parkland shooting...in large extent due to the student leadership coming out of that school”. The raising of these voices led to the recognition that kids across America are riddled with the fear of gun violence each day. Professor Swanson added that the root of this fear is so irrational that we must demand a solution to it. However, Swanson noted that a small percentage of gun deaths derive from such mass shootings, and solutions to one kind of gun violence are not necessarily solutions for another. For example, Red Flag Laws were enacted as a result of this post-Parkland public outcry, but research on the effectiveness of such laws shows that they have a greater impact on reducing suicide than preventing gun-based homicide.


Q: What do you think that students, or the general population, can do to address the problem of gun violence?

Professor Cook emphasized that opportunities to get involved politically have greatly increased in recent years, and if you prefer to stay more distant from direct politics, you can still make an impact by volunteering for local groups in the Durham area. Individual ability to influence policy is greater on the local level than the federal level - start small and move big. Professor Blocher added the current momentum is the greatest he’s seen in all of the years he’s been working on this issue. And finally, Professor Swanson made his greatest piece of advice clear: “Vote”.



Written by Brina Melton, Duke University student intern for NCGV

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