Since the formation of the new student group Penn Against Gun Violence was announced last week, campus discussion on the already controversial issue of gun rights has intensified. Students have expressed mixed reactions to the group, especially online.
Penn Against Gun Violence was formed by College freshman Natalie Breuel in the wake of the online threat against an unnamed Philadelphia school in October. The group’s two-fold mission is to bring awareness to gun violence issues, as well as to advocate for gun safety legislation in Pennsylvania.
While many individuals, including commenters on a previous Daily Pennsylvanian article about the group, expressed harsh critiques and even described the organization as anti-freedom, representatives of political groups and experts on campus maintain more positive stances.
“It is great to see the formation of the Penn Against Gun Violence group. Although Penn is a progressive campus community with countless groups dedicated to important issues, there certainly is a space for an organization committed to raising awareness about and advocating the prevention of gun violence,” said College senior and Penn Democrats president Sean Foley.
College senior and College Republicans President Will Cassidy is also supportive of students forming a group on a topic they are passionate about, and he approves of the group’s focus on advocating for gun safety legislation just within Pennsylvania.
“I think to a large extent, gun control is a state issue. I come from a state that has a large number of recreational hunters and people who use guns in a very benign way. And we have different attitudes towards guns than say, someone in New York does. In different states, the culture of gun ownership is different and people tolerate different levels of risks when it comes to guns,” Cassidy said. “So my overarching belief is that as you very reasonably look in Pennsylvania to limit access to guns, I think that effort should stay within Pennsylvania as this issue should be handled on a state-by-state basis.”
Social Policy & Practice professor Susan B. Sorenson, the group’s faculty advisor, has conducted research on gun violence prevention for over 15 years. Sorenson commented that the online reactions to the new group is not a surprise.
“Guns are but one issue around which people polarize these days. Some people value guns and buy a lot of them whereas others wouldn’t take a gun if it was given to them,” Sorenson said.
Foley hopes that the group will foster more dialogue and activism over the divisive issue.
“I think Penn Against Gun Violence can be particularly beneficial to the community if they highlight the terrible toll that gun violence inflicts on Philadelphia and build off that to lobby for comprehensive gun safety legislation,” Foley said.
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