No shots fired: Santa Monica College defeats Japan in debate over gun control

The SMC Debate team took on the visiting Japanese National Debate team in a debate held on Thursday, March 10 on the main campus of SMC.

The topic of the night was whether the United States should or should not implement significant new gun control.

The SMC team, consisting of Mendez and her co-captain Alfredo Gama and arguing the affirmative, opened with three main points: that society should mandate extensive training for gun owners, safe and secure storage upon purchase of a firearm, and liability insurance for gun owners.

According to CNN.com, firearm related deaths are among the leading causes of death in the U.S. with 33,636 deaths in 2013, particularly due to suicide. The SMC team put early heavy emphasis on this statistic, as well as the fact that guns are readily accessible in many American homes. The Japanese team’s co-captain, Masaya Sasaki, countered this argument saying,“If suicide is a result of [accessibility to] guns, why not ban guns in homes?”

The SMC team responded by emphasizing that their side did not want to ban guns. Mendez said, “They are used for multiple purposes such as hunting. We want to make sure people are properly trained and know how to use [guns].”

Mendez then pushed forward on the team’s third point, liability insurance, explaining that when people buy cars they also buy insurance which makes them legally liable should an accident happen.The SMC team insisted that change was possible for the U.S. and focused on using Japan, their opposing team’s home country, and its famously low crime rate as an example of effective gun control measures.

Sasaki countered, saying Japan’s safety record was impossible to replicate in a country like the US. He emphasized that more guns are owned by civilians in the U.S. than any other country, while in Japan gun possession is virtually impossible. Sasaki closed his argument saying, “You can’t turn the U.S. into Japan.”

The Japanese team, consisting of Sasaki and his partner Naruhiko Nakano, had a clear strategy from the start: either ban guns altogether or honor the Second Amendment and empower American citizens. Citing the Newtown shooting as an example, Gama posed the question if the right to bear arms is more important than the lives of the innocent children. Sasaki stood firm on his point, answering with a solid “yes,” before following with an argument that implementing stricter gun laws would mean punishing law-abiding citizens and empowering criminals, as well as creating a black market in the U.S. that would eventually worsen the state.

Although the SMC team came out of the debate the clear winners, acquiring 59 votes by the attending audience to Japan’s 33, the Japanese debaters were strong contenders.

“Japan was better and had more valid points,” said Kalee Childs, an attendee at the debate. “When you buy a car, the insurance comes with. You can’t make thousands or millions of American gun owners go register. It’s just not going to happen, and [by forcing them] it also takes away their rights as Americans.”

Sasaki agreed with this general assessment. When asked about his team’s performance he said, “I could have been more competitive in the last speech, but I would say that overall we did best.”

Taking a similar position, Gama said, “My organization could have been better, and could have been more effective. The audience thinks we won, but personally I think we won because of my partner. Her last speech brought it home.”

At the end of the debate, faculty head of the Debate Team Nate Brown stated that there may have been unfairness in the voting as several people walked in late and therefore may not have had the chance to hear all arguments from both sides.

The debate was sponsored by the National Communication Association (NCA), the Committee for International Debate and Discussion (CIDD), the Japanese Debate Association (JDA), the SMC Associates, SMC Global Citizenship, and SMC Debate Team.

-By Daniela Barhanna for The Corsair

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