Shots fired. Radio silence. Sirens.
That was a pattern known all too well by the Columbia Police Department in September. Columbia saw six shootings last month, including five in the span of eight days. These high numbers have left the community uneasy and looking for answers. In lieu of these shootings, the Mizzou Democrats and Mizzou College Republicans held a joint meeting to discuss gun reform.
Given the large divide between Democrats and Republicans in recent times, ground rules were set beforehand to ensure everyone was respectful of each other's opinions. The presidents of both clubs asked discussion questions for those in attendance.
For a response, any person who wanted to speak raised their hand and, if selected, were given 45 seconds. After a Democrat spoke, a Republican gave a response and vice versa. Most in the room seemed to believe that change needed to be made, but the Democrats and Republicans had very different ideas on how to enact that change.
Many of the Republicans felt mental illness was the main cause of the mass shootings. They argued there doesn’t need to be a bunch of regulations on guns, but rather an emphasis on treating mental illness. They also argued the Second Amendment protects all people’s right to own a gun, so nobody should be restricted from owning one. Those with mental illnesses should just be treated beforehand.
Many Democrats believed the bigger issue was racism and white supremacy. They argued that gun restrictions on white supremacists would be the best way to end mass shootings. They also feel the Second Amendment is outdated and should not protect the rights of assault rifle ownership since guns are more advanced than they used to be.
There was one idea both sides seemed to agree on: red flag laws. Red flag laws, currently enacted in 17 states, allow friends and family of any gun owner to petition the court to take away that person’s weapons if the court sees fit. The court could issue a temporary ban with the length of time up to their discretion. The decision made by the court regarding the length of the ban can be extended by another court hearing. Those banned from gun possession by the courts are also banned from purchasing a gun.
Allowing local governments to enact their own gun laws could be another way to create gun reform. This would allow cities to create gun laws based on situations happening in their community that people living in other towns might not have to care about. It would be a way to allow more people to get the legislation they want, while not forcing people who don’t want regulations to live with them.
Currently, 44 states don’t allow local governments to enact any gun regulations. California allows some aspects to be regulated by local governments. The five states that allow local governments to create gun regulations — Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — also have the lowest rate of gun deaths among all states.
In regards to gun reform, Missouri consistently ranks toward the bottom of all states. In 2018, the gun death rate was 21.3 out of 100,000 people, which was the sixth most out of all 50 states. As opposed to states like Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, Missouri doesn’t require a background check prior to the sale of a firearm between unlicensed parties. They also don’t require firearms dealers to obtain a state license or give local law enforcement discretion to deny concealed carry permits, among other regulations.
After the many incidents of gun-related violence in Columbia last month, one thing is clear: Columbia residents want action. The trick will be coming to a compromise that will cover the main issues expressed by both Democrats and Republicans.
Edited by Ben Scott | firstname.lastname@example.org