Northwest students and faculty discussed gun control, prison reform, voter turnout and capital punishment in an open discussion debate hosted by Northwest’s Criminal Justice Club Feb. 26.
Leaders of the CJC presented questions on issues and opened the floor for discussion on each. Approximately 25 students attended, and a panel of faculty from the political science department helped keep talking points productive and focused while encouraging diversity of thought and opinions throughout the evening.
Members of the panel included assistant professor Daniel Smith, associate professor Kimberly Casey, assistant professor Jessica Gracey and instructor Kamala Tabor.
The first question of the night was whether or not those present agreed with Missouri’s constitutional carry law, which allows Missouri residents to conceal and carry a firearm without advanced training, government background checks or a permit.
Many made comments on how the legislation could affect state residents.
“I find it dangerous that anyone could get a gun and carry it anywhere without being trained, and there should definitely be background checks for people trying to get them,” Northwest Young Democrats Club president junior Tyler Bears said. “It’s not the best idea to let just anyone carry a gun.”
Others said the bill upholds a constitutional right for anyone to bear arms.
“I agree with the bill,” Northwest College Republicans president junior Daniel Foose said. “I think it makes our second amendment rights easier to attain and keep without government interference.”
The constitutional carry law went into effect Jan. 1, 2017, as Missouri became the 11th state to pass the law at that time according to “GunsToCarry”, a concealed carry guide.
There are 15 states that have constitutional carry in place, with some having laws of resident-carry only or concealed-carry only. Three states have a limited form of permitless concealed carry.
“I have no problem with the second amendment, but I think people should know what they are getting themselves into when they chose to have a gun,” Bears said.
A few questions later, the issue of voter turnout came into discussion, and students shared their take on why it is a problem, especially for college-aged individuals.
Junior and member of Young Americans for Liberty Taylor Moore said automatic registration could improve college-aged voter turnout.
“Some states are seeing how automatic registration is working and are talking about pursuing it,” Moore said. “It’s not a bad idea.”
Automatic voter registration is an updated version of a statute originally requiring certain states to provide citizens the opportunity to vote when applying for or renewing a driver’s license under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
Some states are taking this further with automatically registering individuals to vote, and giving them the ability to opt-out if they choose.
Others said voting days should be made national holidays or moved to the weekends.
“It is something that a lot of people talk about, but it is hard to tell if those kind of solutions are viable,” Smith said. “If it’s made a holiday, there are chances people will take it as a day off and not show up in that regard either.”
The final two questions brought speaking points on morals and ethics of policy within the criminal justice system.
Those in attendance discussed the death penalty and if it is a viable punishment in modern society.
Foose said the death penalty doesn’t align with his personal values.
“I personally don’t think we should get to choose who lives and dies, but there are circumstances where I could see why a judge would decide on it,” Foose said.
The Northwest CJC presented statistics and information on prison population and sentencing, as well as statistics on the other issues throughout the night in an attempt to make the night as much about the facts as it was on opinions for policy.
Final remarks were made by the CJC on how diversity of thoughts provided a good debate.
Junior CJC President Olivia Krohne said the night was a success.
“I really wanted this to be a place where people would be able to feel comfortable with their opinions and not feel embarrassed about them,” Krohne said. “I felt like that happened and that people learned something that maybe they didn’t know before about political science or the justice system.”
Bears said the debate brought people with varying beliefs together for a respectful discussion.
“I am happy with how it went,” Bears said. “It’s healthy to have a disagreement and talk about it, and I think tonight showed that many issues aren’t so partisan, and there isn’t such a difference between us.”