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Flyleaf Books holds panel discussing gun safety, culture

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A Chicago police officer inspects guns during a buyback program in 2016. Photo courtesy of TNS.

Fifteen years ago, Andrew McKevitt, John D. Winters endowed professor of history at Louisiana Tech University, never expected he would write a book about gun history in the U.S.

But, after reading about a 1992 gun violence incident — in which 16-year-old foreign exchange student Yoshihiro Hattori was fatally shot after knocking on the wrong door for a party — he became interested in the perception of American gun violence and its origins.

Those ideas inform his new book "Gun Country," which explores U.S. gun regulation and distribution from a historical lens. McKevitt looked at the factors that increased civilian gun ownership from before World War II to now, with hundreds of millions of guns in the hands of civilians today.

On Tuesday, Jan. 30, Flyleaf Books hosted a book signing and panel featuring McKevitt, as well as a journalist, student advocate and law expert. Panelists shared their opinions on the topic from a variety of perspectives, informed by politics, history and law.

As a panelist, The Charlotte Observer Deputy Opinion Editor Paige Masten  said she enjoyed having the opportunity to hear from people with different areas of expertise than her own. 

Masten, a UNC alumna, took to social media platforms like X following the University's Aug. 28 lockdown, sharing her perspective and emotions about the incident. She said that one of the most important ways to tackle the problem of gun safety is to inform people and raise awareness of the pervasiveness of gun culture. 

On the panel, Andrew Willinger, the executive director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law, said his role was to serve as a neutral voice, providing information about different types of gun laws and regulations.

He said that to make a difference when it comes to gun violence in America, it is important to look at effective and politically feasible interventions.

For UNC junior Kyle Lumsden, this involves showing up for the polls and keeping loved ones up-to-date about gun legislation. Lumsden works as president of Students Demand Action UNC, which requires her to attend N.C. General Assembly sessions in Raleigh and testify in support of gun safety.

“We're the constituents, we are the people that are supposed to be being served,” Lumsden said. “And we have a lot of power, even if we don't think we do.”

Currently, Lumsden said she is in discussion with UNC interim Chancellor Lee Roberts about improving the University's alert system, lockdown procedures, access to information and education about gun safety. 

“I was really pleased to see that there was a student — or, young person — as part of the panel, and it does give me a lot of hope that there is someone in the wings coming up that is going to make a difference,” Carrboro resident and event attendee Ivy Shelton said

Much of the panel discussion expanded on the book's broad topics of gun capitalism by exploring the different interpretations of the Second Amendment and their impact on American gun culture. 

“If you are a so-called ‘law abiding citizen’ today, there are virtually no limits on your ability to accumulate guns, and a vast array of different kinds of guns as well," McKevitt said. "And I argue that our politics is always kind of allowed for that and has always tried to make room for that rather than trying to protect people from guns, they have tried to protect the consumer market for guns."

That is why, McKevitt said, there has been a strategic retreat toward using "gun safety" rather than "gun control" because of the negative connotation associated with the word "control."

For Lumsden, educating the public — with events like the panel discussion —  is critical in preventing misconceptions about the gun safety movement. 

“It's very easy to be desensitized or feel like sort of paralyzed by the issues at hand, so I think these kinds of conversations actually get people interested, get people active, engage people and, of course, educate them,” Lumsden said.

Editor's Note: Paige Masten is a former opinion editor at The Daily Tar Heel.

@preethikaratnam

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com

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