Quinnipiac hosts gun violence webinar

Nicole McIsaac and William Gavin

Quinnipiac University’s School of Law held a virtual webinar on Nov. 13 that centered around the new book, “Weapon of Choice: Fighting Gun Violence While Respecting Gun Rights,” written by Ian Ayres and Fredrick Vars and allowed students to attend discussions about reducing gun violence.

The authors introduced an array of panelists while also teaming up with the Quinnipiac Law Review, a student-run legal journal, during three Zoom sessions that were presented to students throughout the day.

Too often, debates about gun safety are politicized and polarized,” said Jennifer Brown, dean and professor of law. “I think it’s good for members of our community to watch and be a part of conversations in which such creative solutions are proposed, critiqued and improved.

Brown said the university planned for the symposium before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted around the world, but the authors’ ideas are now more important than ever. 

“As the pandemic causes increased rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, some of the strategies Ayres and Vars propose to make guns less accessible to people who might harm themselves gain even greater salience and urgency,” Brown said. 

The authors’ book focuses on gun violence prevention in a humanitarian sense of personal-freedom and individuality, by pushing for self accountability over gun control and other government regulations. They advocate for a number of measures such as gun bounties, red flag petitions and more gun-free zones. 

One of the proposed methods, Donna’s Law, is rooted in the freedoms associated with purchasing guns. That same independence is thought to be able to prevent the potential violence that comes with buying guns.

“For the past two years I’ve been working on a legislation called Donna’s Law, named after my mom,”  said Katrina Brees, the author of Donna’s Law, in the Zoom. “The law would enable those with a self-determined risk of suicide to voluntarily opt out of their ability to purchase a gun.”

Under Donna’s Law, any resident can register their name and photo ID to a state “do not sell list,” which would block them from purchasing any firearms. The legislation would allow only the resident to register their name and only take it off after going through a mandatory 21-day waiting period.

Donna Nathan, Brees’ mother, had a history with depression and mania. Nathan had voluntarily admitted herself to inpatient mental-health stays in hospitals about a dozen times. There have been several occasions where she could barely walk, write or eat because of the tremors her medication gave her. In addition, Brees said her medication made her mother act more impulsive and caused seizures. 

On June 26, 2018, Nathan acted on that impulsivity and found the closest gun store. 

“She told her partner that she was going to the mall to buy some clothes, and he trusted her because it just seemed like she was telling the truth,” Brees said in the Zoom. “What we found is that she went to a gun store, and at that gun store she was able to purchase a gun very quickly. She then took the gun and the bullets to one of our favorite spots, which is called the ‘Tree of Life’.”

Brees shared her mom’s story with the audience at the webinar and emphasized the need for individuals to register themselves unfit to purchase firearms. She said this law would save people, like her mother, from harming themselves.

“In the United States, around 20,000 people each year kill themselves with a gun,” Vars wrote on his blog about the law. “As many people die from gun suicide every day as died in the Las Vegas massacre. We could save lives by allowing people who fear suicide to make it more difficult for themselves to buy a gun during a suicidal crisis.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, Washington and Virginia have already adopted a law named after Donna to reduce gun suicide by allowing individuals to suspend their own ability to purchase a firearm, while nine other states have began introducing this legislation. These studies also show that these measures have reduced gun suicide numbers by 7% to 11% with no offsetting increase in other forms of suicide. 

Some students who attended the other webinars said the discussion did not personally change their view on gun rights. However, it opted as an opportunity for the conversation to expand from implementing arbitrary regulations on the individual right to bear arms and push it towards the libertarian aspect of self-restriction. 

Jean-Alexis Montaudy, a sophomore law and society major, attended the Empowering Self Restriction and Harnessing Others’ Associational Choices session. He said it stood out because it expressed the variety of views and their relation to the constitutional rights.

“The core message of the symposium world be that as citizens, we can choose,” Montaudy said. “Those choices must be done with self-restriction and accountability of others that we may impact, and we should be able to converse across the aisle of these tough topics to reach common ground instead of the polarization of a certain individual exercising their rights — whether it be owning a gun, aborition or marrying who you love.”