Student political groups participate in UT debate

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Clockwise from top left, Young Americans for Liberty representatives Austin Hogan and Nick Pham, College Republicans representatives Madison Yandell and Zach Baumann, University Democrats representatives Joseph Trahan and Jordee Rodriguez and International Socialist Organization representatives Makund Rathi and Brandon Daniels participate in the UT student political debate Monday.

Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

College Republicans, International Socialists Organization, University Democrats and Young Americans for Liberty faced off in a political debate Monday night that included discussion about campus carry, a popular issue on campus.

John Falke, University-wide representative in Student Government, and Claire Smith, editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan, moderated the debate. Topics such as border security, birthright citizenship, mass incarceration, income inequality, equal pay for women, Common Core, climate change and abortion were among the many topics debated. Topics were chosen because of their relevance to the upcoming presidential election and to student life, according to Falke.

Each group had two representatives who opened the debate with remarks that established their political stances. 

Mukund Rathi, one of the representatives of the International Socialists Organization, said shootings on college campuses happen too often and should be fought against. 

“We need to confront the reality of gun ownership in this country, which has always been about privileged people getting weapons in order to protect themselves,” Rathi said. “This is the history of gun ownership in this country. Trayvon Martin’s death made this very apparent, and any attempt to replicate those conditions on this campus are going to have the same effect.”

In rebuttal, Nick Pham, representative of Young Americans for Liberty, said the people in power are historically the ones who take away guns in order to weaken the disenfranchised. 

“It takes a certain kind of privilege to want black people to not be able to shoot back against racist pigs,” Pham said. “I think it takes a certain kind of privilege to not think a woman should be able to shoot her rapist in the street. I think it takes a certain kind of privilege to think that LGBT people shouldn’t be able to carry and fight back against those who would discriminate against them.”

Joseph Trahan, representative of University Democrats, said many people who get gun licenses are not trained properly, which will increase danger on campus.

“We don’t believe that campus carry will help somehow increase the safety of the students here,” Trahan said. “Many people who go get gun licenses aren’t trained. They have no idea how to handle weapons or how to respond to highly intense situations.”

The debate on campus carry is filled with inaccuracies, according to Madison Yandell, representative of College Republicans. Yandell said she thinks one side is stating the facts, while the other is too focused on emotion. 

“I think there is a pretty gross misunderstanding of what goes into getting your concealed handgun licensed,” Yandell said. “In all reality, we’re adults, and those who receive those CHL licenses are adults, and we should be treated as such. This right and this responsibility to protect ourselves should not be taken away simply because we walk into a campus classroom.”

Zach Baumann, representative of College Republicans, said politics should be about working alongside opposing viewpoints.

“I think there are people on the right who are not open to compromise, and there are increasingly people on the left who are not open to compromise, and we need to get back to compromise and making decisions as a group — realizing that compromise isn’t an ugly word,” Baumann said.