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Fort Lewis College students explore gun laws

Author, Duke professor Kristin Goss speaks with psychology class via Skype

It’s controversial, charged with emotions and more complex than it seems at first glance: The debate about gun control.

That’s why Fort Lewis College students in Brian Burke’s psychology class were talking Wednesday via Skype with Kristin Goss, associate professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Goss has written two books about gun laws and gun violence in the U.S. Burke’s class has read her recent one, The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Goss talked about different aspects of the gun issue, including exaggeration by the media and politicians, especially during an election season. The debate about gun control often seems to be separated into two extreme perspectives, she said: The hard-core supporters and the hard-core critics.

“People who are active about this are really passionate,” Goss said. “There’s not much space for compromise.”

During and after her work on the book, published in 2014, Goss observed changes in the gun control discussion.

The pro-regulation side got more involved and received more financial support. Also, more survivors of gun violence and family members of gun violence victims have become activists.

The psychological issues surrounding gun laws were especially interesting for the students. Though there are specific gun laws for people with schizophrenia, there aren’t regulations for people with other mental issues, such as anger-management problems. But these people, in particular, are more risky, Goss said.

Burke’s students talked with Goss to prepare for their own research projects about the psychology of the gun-law debate. Goss encouraged their research.

“It’s surprising how few scholars are researching it,” she said.

In the upcoming weeks, the students will prepare their projects for presentation in April.

The projects might include the effects of facts, values and emotions in discussions about gun violence.

Goss also advised the students to look deeper into the connection between mental-illness issues and gun laws and into Colorado gun laws and media coverage about gun violence.

After the talk over Skype, students said they were impressed with Goss’ passion and commitment to the gun law debate and also with how much they learned from her book and from talking to her.

“It is so easy to have an opinion until you know stuff,” Burke said.

The more somebody knows about gun control, the more complicated it becomes and the more difficult it is to make a decision about it, he said. The students agreed.

Thomas Feiler is a student at the Catholic University Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Germany, and an intern at The Durango Herald.

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