Speakers discuss U.S. gun violence

by Amy Hackbarth and

Presenters in Lockhart Hall on Monday asked University law students to view gun violence deaths in the same way they saw the Sept. 11 attacks.

Attorney Howard Orenstein compared the death toll from the World Trade Center attacks to the 30,000 people who are killed each year in gun-related incidents.

“If you look at the way that incident affected America’s psyche and then think about how we would feel if the attacks happened every 10 weeks, how would that affect our society?” Orenstein asked.

The discussion was part of First Monday, a national campus-based campaign that focuses on a different social justice issue each year. Medical and law students across the country listened to presentations encouraging them to get involved in social justice issues.

First Monday officials chose gun violence this year because guns aren’t strictly regulated, said Mary Heller, a member of the Million Mom March. The organization, which advocates for gun-control and prevention of gun violence, co-sponsored the event.

Orenstein said law students should know about gun violence because as future lawyers, they should be able to fight it.

“What tools do we have?” Orenstein asked students. “We have the courts and the legislation. You’ll be able to use that.”

Orenstein opened the presentation with a video on gun violence and the National Rifle Association, which was met with mixed reactions among the students.

“I’m not a big fan of the NRA, but after seeing this video, I think these people might be more extreme than the NRA,” said Michael Hawkins, a first-year law student.

Second-year law student Christopher Boyette agreed.

“I was hoping that the video would argue both sides, but it was more one-sided,” Boyette said.

While law students discussed legal implications, medical students examined the relevance of gun violence to their profession.

Dr. Rebecca Thoman, executive director of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota, told students it’s important for future physicians to understand how to counsel patients so injuries within the home can be prevented.

In Minnesota, the majority of gun-related deaths are suicides.

“Guns are used in hunting, sport and recreation,” Thoman said. “They certainly have legitimate purposes. But if you’re getting a gun because you think you need one for your safety or protection … that’s really been found to be not true.

“In fact, you are probably at an increased risk of suicide, of an accidental injury or of a homicide within your family as a result of having a gun.”

Carol Allesee, president of the Twin Cities chapter of the Million Mom March, said First Monday attempts to court students for their cause.

“Our hope is to really get some students to become activists around certain issues in our country,” she said.


Amy Hackbarth welcomes comments at [email protected] and
Mike Zacharias welcomes comments at [email protected]