The issue of mass violence drove the conversation Tuesday during an open discussion about a topic people are grappling with nationwide: gun control on college campuses.   

Hosted by students from the Student Engagement Team within the University’s Program on Intergroup Relations, the event aimed to brainstorm the causes of mass violence in the United States in light of recent shootings at college campuses in Roseburg, Ore. and Flagstaff, Ariz.

Members of IGR first asked students to reflect on how they were personally affected by others having guns.

During the event, which The Michigan Daily was asked not to record to provide a safe space for dialogue, one student said while they weren’t comfortable with guns, they believed there was a dissidence between people who rely on guns for protection and people who have guns for the sole purpose of killing and causing harm.

In an interview with the Daily after the event, LSA sophomore Gloriela Iguina-Colon, a co-student engagement coordinator, said part of the issue is that guns are often associated with having power.

“In my group, we talked about the intersection of showing and displaying power through guns and masculinity in our culture,” she said. “I think that’s a really important thing to address so we can redefine what it means to be masculine and to be strong.”

A portion of the event was also dedicated to discussing how dominant ideologies and beliefs within American culture contribute to issues of mass violence.

Using the cycle of socialization model as a resource, students broke into small groups to discuss the lingering impacts of a culture that views mass violence as a social norm. The model suggests that dominant ideologies are reinforced in a society through repeated messages from institutions of power such as media outlets and businesses.

One group of students said the media tends to attach narratives to incidents of mass violence, such as narratives that suggest white mass shooters suffer from mental illness or that Black shooters are engaging in gang activity.  

During the discussion, Iguina-Colon shared an anecdote about how two of her male Black friends were relieved to learn the shooters at Northern Arizona University and Umpqua Community College were not Black.

“One of my other friends just kept scrolling down the news article, trying to find out about the race of the shooter, and when she found out he was white, she was relieved she didn’t have to worry about it,” she said. “I’m Puerto Rican, so I know I can empathize with that feeling. We look at news articles, and we just hope that it’s not us.”

Tuesday’s discussion ended with students thinking about what causes people to carry out mass violence. One student said that some people only believe their stories will be heard if they do something harmful or outlandish to receive attention.

In turn, members of IGR asked students to brainstorm ways people can understand each other before unfortunate acts of mass violence occur. Iguina-Colon said holding additional dialogues similar to Tuesday’s discussion would be beneficial for the University community.

“Holding dialogues like this where you talk about big topics and where you also do some inner reflections like this, where you think about what you can do, is important,” she said. “I think in the dorm setting, holding dialogues like this or with your friends or in your learning community is important in taking ownership because we are all responsible for what’s happening because we’re all part of the system.”

In an interview with the Daily after the event, LSA senior Elena Ross, a co-student engagement coordinator, said holding the discussion was important in prompting students to engage with issues surrounding gun violence.

“This epidemic of gun violence impacts all of us in ways we don’t even realize,” she said. “It’s easy to read and see about it in the news and become numb to it and not engage with it. Having an evening where people come together and talk about what it’s really like, and what role we play, and what it means for us and our daily lives and our sense of security in our life in general and on our college campus is really important.”

The Student Engagement Team hopes to hold a follow-up candlelight vigil in remembrance of the victims of recent college shootings.

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