Parkland opinions: students respond to gun control statistics

20170628_MM_9mmHandgun

A full-sized 9mm pistol is seen next to a loaded 15-round magazine. 9mm Luger has been a popular cartridge for civilian concealed carry and military handguns alike since the early 20th century. (Note: This image has been edited to conceal the firearm’s serial number in the interest of the owner’s privacy.) Photo by Matt Moss | The Prospectus

Greg Gancarz

Staff Writer

Students interviewed at Parkland were divided on their stances towards gun control, but one thing many of them had in common was an admitted lack of knowledge regarding the details of the issue.

Students were given handouts to fill out and were then asked various questions about gun control, both nationally and internationally.

Opinions and know-how varied from person to person, but most had a limited knowledge of the issues based on their responses to the questionnaires. Most students also admitted to their own ignorance regarding the answers to various questions.

The questionnaires asked students to rank seven different countries based on their levels of violent crime. The nations to be ranked were the United States, Mexico, Norway, the Czech Republic, India, Switzerland, and Turkey. In addition, students were also asked to indicate which of the nations on the list allowed their citizens to own and possess firearms in a manner similar to that practiced in the United States.

The correct ranking of nations from safest to most dangerous was Norway, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, India, Turkey, the United States, and Mexico coming in last place. The statistics used were taken from the databases at NationMaster.com. Of the selected nations, four out of seven allowed relatively large weapon possession among their populations; Norway, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and the United States.

After filling out the questionnaires and answering several additional follow up questions, the correct answers to the survey were then revealed to the students.

Some of the nations chosen were selected to challenge the conventional notion that firearms lead to an increase in violent crime rates. Besides the United States, the three European nations each ranked among the safest of the seven selected nations and also ranked among some of the safest nations globally, despite the high rates of gun ownership among all of them.

Nations such as Mexico, which have extremely stringent gun control policies, still ranked as one of the deadliest countries worldwide, second only to Syria in a recent ranking. India and Turkey also demonstrated that a gun-free legislative policy did not always translate into safety.

While most of the students interviewed were able to rank the nation’s safety with relative accuracy, not a single person was able to accurately identify every nation that did and did not allow gun possession for the everyday citizen. About a third indicated that they believed the U.S. was the only nation to do so. Most of the other respondents marked the more dangerously ranked nations as having easier access to guns, which proved to be the opposite of the actual results.

For Grace H, who is studying to become a dental hygienist, the fact that Mexico, whom she ranked as the most dangerous listed country, bans practically all firearms was particularly surprising.

“I figured Mexico for sure was [dangerous] because of all the gang violence with drugs and everything,” she said. “I’m surprised that they are not allowed to possess firearms because I think so many do. So, pretty much all the guns people have there are all illegal.”

Weston B, who is studying to become an educator, found the fact that the European nations of Norway and Switzerland allowed weapon possession on a grand scale to be particularly “interesting,” but he also noted that he believes guns do “not necessarily” lead to an increase in violent crime.

“It all depends on the person’s state of mind and how they are mentally,” Weston said.

For students like Ray D, who grew up in Chicago where gun violence was more “common,” he believes civilian firearm possession “definitely does” increase violent crime. Ray’s responses to the questionnaire indicated the same beliefs. He was another student to list Mexico as both the most dangerous, and a state which allows firearm possession among its citizens in great numbers. All the selected European states on the list were believed to be both gun free, and the safest countries.

When confronted with the correct answers to the questionnaire, Ray was quick to admit that he did not know a great deal about the issue, despite his favoring stricter control.

Myla S was another student who openly admitted to her lack of knowledge about the issue of control, but freely admitted that she believed guns do cause an increase in violent crime. Despite being “scared to death of guns,” Myla still states she was quite content with the way things are regarding legislation, although she did note some slight disillusionment with the role firearms currently play in the nation’s society.

“I’d like to say [it’s] personal defense but I don’t think that’s the case,” Myla said. “I think people just use them whenever they think it’s ok to use them.”

Most students echoed similar opinions regarding American legislation, if not how they felt about firearms and violence. Despite the U.S. ranking as one of the more dangerous nations on the list of seven, most reported that they felt gun control was fine in its current state. For some, changing the way Americans treat firearms could prove to be more difficult than just passing new laws.

“That’s really hard because you see the cultural differences in policies like that,” says John C, who is studying welding and industrial maintenance. “I think it’s really hard to change policies to emulate somewhere else because there are always preexisting conditions in the country that you’re trying to change.”

While most of the students said their opinions on the issue were not necessarily altered when presented with information against the claim that guns inherently cause violence, most did say they had learned something new.

Editor’s note: This article does not take into account illegal gun ownership or other forms of violent crime. Opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the opinions of the Prospectus or Parkland College.