Residents Speak Out On Guns At The Dexter Forum

Less than 24-hours after a Central Michigan Student tragically shot and killed his parents on campus, “Guns” was suggested for an agenda item at the Dexter Forum last Saturday morning.

Shootings and guns are in the news and on peoples’ minds these days and the folks at the Forum were no exception. Gun control is a charged and polarizing topic, but one reason people have been drawn people to the Dexter Forum is its reputation for being a safe place to speak out. The Forum is moderated in a way that people disagree, agreeably. What follows is a sampling of the comments made during the “Guns” discussion.

Moderator John Hansen opened the charged topic by saying, “Let’s see if we can have a civil discussion about guns.” He then added, “We now have one gun per resident in the country. Not everyone has one but we’ve got 300 million of them.”

“I don’t own any guns. I’ve got numerous family members who own guns, from military members to hunters. They’re great. I go out shooting with them occasionally. I just don’t care to have one. I don’t feel like I need it. I certainly don’t feel anybody should have to give up their guns. On the other hand, we’re past the point where something has to be done. It’s clear to me that one thing isn’t going to do it. It’s a very complicated problem. It’s not going to get fixed tomorrow so it’s something that we’re probably stuck with for awhile.”

“Guns are a tool. You put them in the hands of somebody who doesn’t have the capability to properly use them, you have a problem. Guns serve a purpose. You take a car and put it in the hands of a person who shouldn’t be driving it, you have a problem. Just about anything can be turned into a weapon in the wrong hands.”

It was mentioned that every household in Switzerland is issued a gun by the government but they do not have mass shootings. There was someone at the Forum who had grown up in Switzerland.

“Every household is issued a gun because it is connected to the mandatory draft. Every male, upon turning eighteen-years-old, must serve two years in the military. But there are regulations: You can’t have unlimited ammunition. The type of ammunition is regulated. You are limited to where you can shoot the gun, no firing it off in the back yard. You have to use a certified range.”

More comments:

“We require insurance for the operation of a potentially dangerous piece of machinery. If insurance companies were required for gun ownership, you would get the private sector regulating it. The insurance companies would do the due diligence and background check.”

“There are two pediatricians in this group and we’re not allowed to talk to parents about gun ownership in our office. But I talk to families about it anyway. ‘Do you have a gun?’ ‘Do you keep it locked?’ There are a number of unlocked firearm incidents in homes with kids as young as four-years-old shooting themselves or somebody. It’s terrible.”

“As a historian, I think it’s interesting to note that there was a time when the Thompson sub-machine gun was banned for civilians to have so there has been a precedent set for assault weapons being banned.”

It was pointed out that the Thompson sub-machine gun was the gun used by mobsters in spite of the ban.

The comments resumed:

“The laws in Michigan distinguish between long guns and hand guns. Hand guns are heavily regulated. There are places you can carry them or can’t. Long guns are not regulated at all because long guns are viewed as a hunting gun. The shooter in Florida used a long gun.”

“I’d love to hear the pro-gun owners talk. Every time we have this conversation, people who are skeptical or anti-gun, speak up about it and the other side stays quiet. If you take a random sampling, you’d be surprised how many people have an assault weapon in their home right now and they’re just average citizens. They’re not crazy. They’re not criminals. They just feel they need to have it. I’d like to hear from people who have one, or support having an assault weapon, why do they think that’s a good idea?”

“I support the second amendment. I got training from my dad on safety. I don’t own any guns. I’m probably not ever going to have a gun in my house. They had a problem like this in the Post Office. People when ‘postal’, using a firearm to kill people. They came up with a solution. I don’t know what it was but the problem stopped. It could be a model we could use.”

School security came up in the conversation:

“Whatever the long term solution is to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, there is also a short term solution needed to make things, like schools, more secure.”

“Detroit schools all have metal detectors. But if you’re going to do that, because of Sandy Hook, you have to do the elementary schools. As an educator, testing 5-year-old kids when they arrive to school in the morning and then have to explain to them why you’re doing that, as a teacher that bothers me.”

“Arming teachers to me is just unbelievable that that would be a good idea. A statistic that I saw yesterday, if you think you should arm teachers, is that the accuracy of the New York Police Department is eighteen-percent, and they’re trained. If you’re going to train teachers to use guns, then you better train them pretty damn well.”

“In the shooting yesterday at Central Michigan University, they were interviewing the roommate who said, ‘Well we knew he had a gun.’ Of course they’re not supposed to have guns in the dorm, but apparently he didn’t show any signs of violence or premeditation. But at what point do you rat out your roommate? At what point to you tell your roommate, ‘You know I’m a little uncomfortable here. You’ve got a gun.’ Kids don’t do that.”

The discussion had gone far past the usual 10-15 minutes per topic and the moderators brought it to a close with a few more comments:

“Yes, people have mental health problems. People are depressed. People get mad at other people but isn’t it part of how we’re raising our sons, how men are acculturating? I just see it as a different problem.”

“It’s kind of refreshing to see some of the nationwide companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods has already implemented a policy where you have to be twenty-one to buy a rifle. They’re also going to be limiting magazine size and a variety of things like that. I think if a lot of these big companies do their job, every little bit can help to contribute to greater safety.”

“The vast majority of these shooters have had a significant mental health issue. Many of those have been identified. It’s not an easy process.”

And with that, the discussion moved on to tree removal around town.

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