Gun control stands at forefront of discussion for new Rutgers organization
Rutgers is now the home of the first student-run chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control legislation and reform.
The Rutgers chapter was started by Lauren Kaminskas, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore who is now the president of the group.
“I wanted to get a new perspective with this chapter and have more young people get involved with this issue,” Kaminskas said. “(The Brady Campaign) is clearly pro-gun control, but it tries to make this issue more bipartisan rather than just a leftist stance.”
The Brady Campaign was founded in 1974 as the National Council to Control Handguns. It was renamed as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2001 in honor of James Brady, the White House Press Secretary under former President Ronald Reagan. Brady was permanently disabled during the attempted assassination of Reagan in 1981, according to its website.
The Brady Campaign's best-known success is the 1993 passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which mandated federal background checks on firearm purchasers.
The campaign currently advocates legislation to ban the sale of certain kinds of guns and accessories, such as bump stocks, to civilians. It also advocates stricter legislation against “bad apple” gun dealers who knowingly sell to customers buying guns for ineligible citizens who would not pass background checks, according to the website.
The Rutgers chapter is currently recruiting, and it has scheduled its first meeting for after Thanksgiving break, Kaminskas said.
The club's first event is scheduled for Dec. 5 and will be a vigil for the anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, she said. The vigil will also commemorate other shootings that have happened since then.
“Five years ago when Newtown happened ... we all thought, 'This is it, this is the one thing that's going to be the thing that changes everything,'” said Nick Malaniak, treasurer of the Rutgers chapter of the Brady Campaign and a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “And then you quickly find out, with things like Pulse (in Orlando, Florida) last year, or Las Vegas last month, you constantly keep having that thing that you think is going to change everything, and it doesn't, at least federally."
Kaminskas said the club will hold meetings relatively infrequently, likely once or twice a month. The meetings will be informal, open discussions, in which members will be encouraged to raise any issues that seem relevant and to express their opinions.
“We're not looking for the most extreme views. We just want to hear what other people think and to find a general moral ground to this issue,” Kaminskas said. “You don't necessarily have to be set on going into government, just to be involved in this organization ... You just have to want to make the effort to speak on what you think on issues, and to want to hep fight this problem.”
Gun control is ultimately a political issue, not just a moral one, Kaminskas said. She hopes to work with other political groups on campus, and has already made efforts to coordinate with the Rutgers University Democrats.
She said that while she would like to work with a wide array of politically-engaged student organizations, she expects right-wing groups to oppose the Brady Campaign's efforts.
Eric Eaton, the vice president of the Rutgers Conservative Union and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore said in an email, “We here at the Rutgers Conservative Union are advocates of the First Amendment and the right of student groups to express differing political views on campus, even if we may disagree with them.”
Kaminskas said that for the most part gun control is a partisan issue, with Democrats generally supporting it and Republicans generally opposing it. As mass shootings have increased in frequency, the issue of gun violence has exerted a greater influence on politics, and some Republicans have begun to support stricter regulation of guns.
“Politicians are realizing that this is a real issue,” Kaminskas said. “More people are joining these organizations to rally for these causes and for legislation. I am optimistic. I think you have to be. You want Americans to want to keep each other safe.”