Owing to positions that didn’t fit political norms and an abundance of respect, two Southern Oregonians showed that a friendly debate on one of the country’s chief hot-button topics was indeed possible.
At a gun-control debate between a Libertarian filmmaker from Klamath Falls and a South Medford High School honor student behind Medford’s March for Our Lives demonstration, each side took provocative stances that threw audience members for a loop.
For example, South Medford High School senior Brian Josephson said he disagrees with an assault-weapon ban, running counter to a state ballot initiative in the works.
Instead, Josephson, recently named a U.S. Presidential scholar, advocated for “more intensive permitting” nationwide, expanded mental health resources and bolstered school security using fencing and armed police presences Wednesday evening at the Medford library.
The stance wasn’t what David Dobrin of Medford expected. Dobrin attended to express his concerns about proposed limitations on the sizes of magazines.
“When California enacted their 10-round magazine ban, I always kind of laughed at the though of all the gang members in South Central throwing their magazines away because they’re no longer allowed to have it,” Dobrin said.
Josephson countered that the Parkland, Florida shooter using a 10-round magazine rather than a 100-round drum “probably did save lives.”
“Even if it’s one or two, that is one or two more American dreams than we would’ve had otherwise,” Josephson said.
Josephson’s opponent, Klamath Falls filmmaker David Kirk West, advocated for bold libertarian stances related to gun laws such as allowing felons to own guns and that anyone should be allowed to own explosives. West advocated for the end of any victimless crimes.
Further, West stated that violence is dropping, attributing headlines about mass shootings to a more connected world and copycats who find inspiration from previous news reports.
“Doing nothing is decreasing gun violence on its own,” West said.
West noted that suicides are rarely covered in the news, and advocated for similar polices when covering mass shootings.
Local talk radio personality Bill Meyer, who moderated the debate, added levity by joking that Fox News and CNN would only carry “puppy or kitten videos” with such a stance.
Audience members Angela Cruthirds of Medford and Aliah McCoy, visiting from Tacoma, Washington, pressed West on his position.
“I guess if we don’t have a problem, we don’t have to fix it,” Cruthirds said.
In response, West advocated for ending the drug war as a way to reduce homicides and stated that Australia’s crime rate hasn’t dropped at a dramatically different rate from the United States since the country placed strict gun laws in the 1990s.
McCoy disagreed with the debate’s seeming removal from current events.
“I think that’s problematic,” McCoy said. “People are dying because of guns. What can we do about it?”
Dobrin, a gun owner, said the debate was framed “a little differently” than he expected, but didn’t leave with any different outlooks from the beginning of the night. He liked the respectful tone, however.
“We’re all here for the same reason — we don’t want innocent people to die,” Dobrin said.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.