Group urges Congress to address gun control

By Alexa Volland

Independent Florida Alligator, U. Florida via UWIRE

With the trauma of the Newtown, Conn., massacre still lingering, the Association of American Universities has called upon President Barack Obama and members of Congress to address gun violence.

In the statement issued Thursday, the association, comprised of 62 universities including U. Florida, is pushing for the federal government to reform gun laws.

While UF is in the association, Director of Public Affairs Janine Sikes said it is not a UF-related initiative and was unaware if UF has taken any stance.

Jodine Castin, a 22-year-old health education and behavior senior, said she was glad the association was calling for action.

“Part of my fear was that it would be forgotten,” she said. “There needs to be at least one law made.”

Stating that schools have become “centers for national mourning,” the statement issued by the executive committee has asked that action occur on three domains: gun control, care of the mentally ill and the culture of the contemporary media.

The Association of American Universities has joined more than 300 college presidents who have signed College Presidents for Gun Safety, an open letter demanding Congress pass stricter gun control laws.

UF has not signed the list, which is made up of mostly private colleges.

Criminology and sociology professor Ronald Akers said he thought the association’s requests were reasonable and supported the call.

“The passage and outcome of any policy changes will be more symbolic than actually effective in dealing with or preventing events such as at Sandy Hook elementary,” Akers wrote in an email.

Stating that mental illness has played a role in mass violence in America, the association has requested more thorough examinations of the treatment of the mentally ill in the search for ways to extinguish mass violence.

The Association of American Universities has also called for a ban of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

Yet, Akers said higher levels of gun violence are often found in stronger gun control jurisdictions.

“Whatever failures of gun control that can be identified in such instances predict too much,” Akers wrote. “The same failures are found all over the place without the same outcomes.”

Linda Nhon’s approval of tighter gun control by the federal government was heightened after she left a Largo, Fla., music venue, and two gunshots were fired when a fight broke out.

“There were kids there,” said the 21-year-old UF junior. “It makes me feel unsafe to go to public places, especially around my own peers.”

Sydney Madrigal, a 19-year-old UF freshman, is also in support of more regulations when it comes to buying a weapon.

While the association is focused on gun control and mental illness, the statement also points blame to the media, which they said is fueling crime with their “addiction to violence.”

“The exposure to media portrayals of violence in American society is very widespread, so there should be very large, even massive numbers of such incidents,” Akers said. “Yet there are relatively few, so few that when they occur they attract enormous attention.”

Akers said the policy changes that stem from traumatic events can reach a level of moral panic that produces strong public fear.

“Once the policy changes are made we tend to think we have fixed the problem, but the evidence and the probability that any of the recommended actions will have real, meaningful and consequential outcomes is pretty low,” he said.

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