Leaders of Belmont’s political student organizations held an informal student debate Thursday night in the Gabhart Student Center, sharing their views on topics like gun control and higher education.
The debate included student leaders from Turning Point USA, College Republicans, College Democrats and Young Americans for Liberty.
David Plazas, the opinion and engagement editor for The Tennessean, moderated the discussion, directing the conversation toward specific topics and also allowing students in the audience to ask questions.
The first question dealt with the price of education and each of the students discussed how they saw the problem through the lens of their political ideology.
Young Americans for Liberty President Gavin Mummert said while scholarships benefit students who receive them, they hike up the price of education for students who are paying out of pocket.
His solution to this problem is to allow the market to set the price for education, instead of leaning on so many scholarships and student loans.
“The reason your tuition is much higher is because we have artificially subsidized our ability to go to school,” Mummert said.
College Democrats President Finley Sehorn took a different stance, supporting government-subsidized education, because of the benefit education has on societal ills like poverty and crime.
“I think education is an obligation. The government, I do think, has a responsibility to facilitate that. For the good of society, everybody needs a baseline education,” Sehorn said.
College Republicans President Brayton Johns agreed with Sehorn on the importance of education.
“Really it all starts with a good education, whether that’s private, public or charter, specifically charter or private. I think that it is important for the government to support those entities and allow students to choose that route if that’s what’s best for them,” said Johns.
Later on in the debate, Plazas allowed students to ask questions. One of the questions the panelists tackled was whether or not gun control could be the solution to mass shootings.
“Just to preface this, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I am a member of the NRA, but there are certain things that the general public doesn’t need. We don’t need a fully automatic weapon,” Turning Point USA President Hannah Brunson said.
Johns agreed that the Second Amendment is important, but he thinks people on both sides of the debate need to compromise in order to reach a solution.
“There’s definitely a mental health issue in the United States, and we need to combine our resources and our assets to try to fix that,” Johns said. “I think each side is going to have to budge a little bit, and no one is going to be 100 percent happy with the outcome. I’m a believer in the Second Amendment, but obviously there’s an issue,” he said.
Sehorn said his views have changed on the issue since he realized that arming yourself to protect yourself against government intervention would not be effective.
“If the government wanted something from you, you’re not going to stop them. The whole idea that you could defend yourself against the government with a rifle is simply not true, so if you need a semi-automatic weapon or if you need an automatic weapon, you should seriously be questioning your intentions,” Sehorn said.
At the end of the debate, Plazas asked the panelists why students should join their movements.
Instead of heavily promoting their own ideals, the panelists spoke on the importance of having non-partisan conversations.
“I think that all of us are the generation to change the way that politics work in the United States,” said Johns. “I think we’re the ones who are going to come together and agree that we disagree, but still find solutions.”
Regardless of their individual views, the speakers all agreed that political involvement is important.
“I don’t think you should join the democratic movement specifically, but I think you should join a movement,” said Sehorn.
This article written by Liz Gresser.