The president of a conservative private liberal arts college in southern Michigan proposed citizens do more to limit gun violence to prevent the power of the government from expanding.
“I think that the people to enforce the law in this age of ubiquitous threats is all of us,” Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn told a group gathered Thursday afternoon at Quaker Station for an Akron Roundtable luncheon to hear his talk titled "The Constitution, Personal Liberty and Self-Government.”
Also a professor of politics and history at Hillsdale, Arnn said he believes the federal government has grown too large with too many “detailed rules.”
"The violence that's going on in this country is likely to get worse," Arnn, who also addressed the Akron group in 2004, said, adding that "there's no doubt at all” about what the U.S. Constitution says about the right to keep and bear arms. He said the Founding Fathers believed in the right to defend yourself if threatened, the need for many people who know about guns in order to have a strong military and protection in case the government gets “out of control.”
He said there are two “extreme views” on guns: stopping all private ownership of weapons or letting anyone carry any weapons they want.
He said he doesn’t believe in either. Instead, he proposes training and testing unpaid volunteers that law enforcement could call on in times of need.
“I think we should place those people everywhere where there's a risk,” he said. "You could increase the ability to protect and enforce the law and you would not be making the government stronger but us stronger.”
In a 20-minute question-and-answer session after his 20-minute talk, Arnn fielded several audience-submitted questions on gun control measures.
On assault weapon bans he said, “I don’t know [how] much difference those will make.” He said “I really like” background checks, “and I think they should be as thorough as they can be.
"I don't think the solution to this thing is going down a list of particular individual stuff you can do to guns, although I favor a lot of those things,” he said.
When answering a question on his opinion on regulating high-capacity magazines — he answered “I don't know how effective that would be." Arnn misspoke about the Columbine shootings, saying “the boys who shot up Columbine, they didn't kill many people, or maybe they didn't kill anybody, I don't remember exactly, but they had trained, you know, you could change the magazines fast.”
Thirteen people were shot and killed in the Columbine High School shooting outside Denver, Colorado, in 1999. The two shooters both died by suicide.
In his talk, Arnn attributed much of the country’s gun violence to mental health issues.
The American Psychiatric Association has condemned linking gun violence with mental illness, stating the majority of people with mental illness aren’t violent and are more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators of violence.
“We don't do a very good job with people who are disturbed. There's a lot of reasons for that,” Arnn said. “But if you think that gun ownership is the reason, I doubt it.”
Arnn’s talk was part of Akron Roundtable’s new two-part Point/Counterpoint series to discuss gun violence and Second Amendment rights, with a different viewpoint explored during events in consecutive months.
Part one was last month, with Brady Center/Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence former president and CEO Paul Helmke presenting "When Will We Ever Learn? Gun Violence, Politics and the Second Amendment.” He discussed what needs to be done to reduce gun violence, the barriers to getting that done and what people can do to make a difference.
“Since I last spoke to the Akron Roundtable 10 years ago, we've seen more and more mass killings using firearms,” Helmke said in a news release. “But even with high profile shootings like Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland and Pittsburgh, Congress refuses to take any action to change our gun laws.”
To listen to Helmke’s talk, visit akronroundtable.org/speakers/paul-helmke/5953.
Contact Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.