First PC Coffee focuses on gun laws
The Pugh Community Board (PCB) held its first Pugh Community Coffee (PC Coffee) this past Thursday, Sept. 13. The purpose of Thursday’s PC Coffee was to gather students who were interested in learning about both Maine and nation-wide gun control and to talk about the issue as it relates to campus.
PC Coffee facilitator Grant Hyun ’14 proposed the idea in light of the summer’s numerous spree shootings, including the shooting in Aurora, Col. during the premiere of The Dark Night Rises, the shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. and the shooting outside of the Empire State building only a few weeks ago. Co-facilitator Ty Steinhauser ’14 said, “it was really important to bring [the conversation] back to Colby, especially in a school that’s surrounded by hunting territory and one that actually has gun laws here in the College that most people aren’t even aware of.”
Starting the discussion, participants explained their personal understandings of gun-use. A wide range of opinions were represented. One student from Maine talked about guns in regards to spree shootings or game hunters, another participant grew up in suburban New York and explained that the topic of gun use conjured up images of school shootings.
Of major concern to many students were the regulations surrounding semi-automatic weapons. Steinhauser explained that the Aurora shooting was the biggest shooting of its kind since the expiration of former President Bill Clinton’s ban on the manufacture of semi-automatic weapons in 2004. “A lot of people think that [the legality of semi-automatic weaponry] hasn’t been touched because it’s an election year…[the ban] expired and no-one is saying anything,” he said.
Participants for the most part agreed that stricter regulation was needed for semi-automatic weapons but did not come to any solid conclusion about what should be done. One participant suggested psychological testing while another insisted that “spree kills are a drop in the bucket compared to what the actual firearm violence is.…An immediate move in the right direction is to raise our overall standard of living in this country so that people aren’t doing things out of desperation.”
The discussion eventually shifted to the topic of guns on campus. The student handbook states that although a long list of weapons and firearms are not allowed on campus at any time, “Shotguns and high-caliber rifles to be used specifically for target or skeet shooting or for hunting (only with a valid Maine hunting license) during Maine’s hunting season must be registered and stored under Security’s supervision in Roberts Building.”
That allowance was a surprise to most participants. One participant said that she assumed “guns were just a no-no, period, on college campuses because there is such a widespread fear of school shootings” and was shocked that nobody ever warns students that they may see someone walking out of Roberts with a gun. Another participant said, “I think [Colby’s gun regulations are] 100 percent reasonable” and that if the College completely banned the possession of guns on campus, students would keep them in their rooms. She said that “it’s smarter for [Security] to say ‘yes, you can have them, as long as we can keep them in our office.’”
Steinhauser said, “I definitely think [the PC Coffee went well]…and I think that the people were receptive to other people’s ideas.” Participant Jack Mauel ’13 commented via e-mail, “I anticipated an extremely polarized room with the two sides fervently arguing against each other. What I found was an extremely moderate, curious group of students.”
PCB plans to have eight total PC Coffees this year — four a semester. The next PC Coffee, “Feminism is For Everybody,” will be held on Oct. 2. Since the event will be “right around the election,” the topic will be “‘Women’s Right to Health’… so looking at things like birth control or abortion and how that plays a role in the more public conversation on health,” PCB Chair Alex Murry ’13 said.
The topics for the remaining PC Coffees will be determined later in the semester, because the talks seek to provide a forum for students to debate issues of current concern. Murry cited the PC Coffee two years ago on the need for a gender and sexuality resource center and last year’s discussion about affirmative action as examples of moments when the climate on campus necessitated a public conversation. “If there’s something relevant that we really feel the campus needs a forum or an open space to talk about we’ll provide that,” Murry said.