Advocates from both sides of gun control debate discuss with community

Those interested in gun control laws heard an unusual amount of agreement Wednesday night at the Dole Institute of Politics.

The Dole Institute’s Student Advisory Board hosted a conversation between Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, and Allen Rostron, a law professor at University of Missouri-Kansas City. Rostron agreed with many of Stoneking’s opinions on gun control. Rostron, formerly a senior staff attorney at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said he tried to find the truth in between the opposing sides of the gun control debate.

“It’s more effective to not be extreme,” he said. “Spouting anti-gun rhetoric is great for the people who already agree with you, but you’ll lose the people who don’t agree or are in the middle.”

Lexi Clark, student advisory board coordinator, moderated the conversation, asking questions that were part of a student survey the institute recently took.

Stoneking and Rostron agreed that Second Amendment protects both the states’ rights to raise militias and individuals’ right to own guns, but Rostron said the mistake that is often made is looking at the amendment as a state-only right or individual-only right.

“We can have a strong Second Amendment right,” he said. “It should come with good, sensible gun laws as well.”

On the matter of gun education for children, both agreed that parents should primarily be responsible for teaching their children about guns. Stoneking said the National Rifle Association’s Eddy the Eagle gun safety program should be allowed in schools to help educate children. Rostron cautioned that many gun education programs do not work as well as educators hope.

One point the two disagreed on was how high-caliber ammunition should be regulated. Rostron said he believes some high-caliber ammunition should be put under that National Firearms Act because there is a substantial difference in the danger it poses. Stoneking said the placement of the shot matters more than the caliber of the bullet used.

“The .22 was the caliber of choice for mafia hit men,” she said. “I don’t think limiting the caliber will make any difference.”

The discussion could not have come at a better time. Wednesday the U.S. Senate blocked a bipartisan bill that would expand background checks for new gun owners.

This week Gov. Sam Brownback signed two laws designed to expand gun rights. One allows concealed carry of weapons into most public buildings in the state. The second, the Second Amendment Protection Act, declares Kansas-made firearms immune from federal regulations inside that state.