Representatives from politics, academia, policy research and the UC Berkeley student body gathered to discuss gun violence and gun control in America during a campus event Wednesday night.
The event, hosted by the ASUC Office of the External Affairs Vice President, featured a wide variety of speakers, including California District 64 Assemblymember Mike Gipson, Policy Director of the Pacific Center for Violence Prevention Andres Soto, Berkeley Law Professor Franklin Zimring and campus junior Leonard Irving-Thomas.
Speakers highlighted recent acts of gun violence and brought together statistics and political insight to describe the issue, afterward proposing a variety of solutions.
Gipson roused urgency for the topic by recounting vivid stories of violence in his district. He told of babies, students and young children killed by stray bullets in his district, adding that these were “almost everyday occurrences.”
The effects of gun violence on Black Americans in particular were illustrated by statistics presented by Zimring.
Irving-Thomas brought up recent events in Sacramento, such as the shooting of an unarmed Black man, Stephon Clark, in Clark’s grandparents’ backyard.
Zimring provided an international perspective on the issue, comparing America to countries such as Germany and England, which have strict gun laws, and where fewer than 10 citizens are killed on average every year because of gun violence. In the U.S., that figure is 1,100, according to Zimring.
Panelists highlighted loopholes and shortcomings in U.S. legislation as potential causes behind gun violence. Zimring described a “gun show loophole,” where individuals who might otherwise fail a background check can buy from unlicensed sellers.
Soto stressed the importance of regularly registering firearms.
“You get your gun, and that’s it, you don’t have to register them over the years,” Soto said during the event. “You cannot reliably trace guns back to people.”
Panelists proposed a variety of solutions that they suggested would alleviate gun violence: removing members of Congress who refuse to pass effective gun legislation, giving resources to communities where gun violence is prevalent and providing the American public with factual information about gun violence.
According to Zimring, recent statistics provided by the U.S. government were off by nearly 50 percent when compared to the research done by him and his colleagues. He indicated that this may have to do with the supposed lobbying influence of the National Rifle Association, or NRA, and other gun rights activists.
Zimring concluded by talking about the importance of engaging young voters.
“We have to get millennials involved politically,” Zimring said during the event. “If we don’t do that then gun violence is the least of our problems.”