Rick Santorum says gun possession creates ‘healthy society’ at YAF event

Media Credit: Aaron Schwartz | Staff Photographer

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks about the Second Amendment during a conversation in the Marvin Center Wednesday.

Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator and two-time presidential candidate, spoke to a packed Marvin Center Amphitheater Wednesday for a conversation about Second Amendment rights sponsored by GW’s chapter of the Young America’s Foundation.

Shannon Bell, the co-president of YAF, introduced Santorum to the crowd. She said the former senator became known as a “voice for conservatives” during his bids for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and 2016.

Leading up to the event, YAF displayed posters around campus advertising the conversation, but about 2,000 of them were torn down within two weeks, according to a Facebook statement from the group.

YAF said the posters were torn down by “unidentified cowards” who targeted the group because of its conservative views.

“College campuses are supposed to be a place filled with new ideas, intellectual discussion and freedom of expression – not a liberal echo chamber where any dissenting ideas are silenced by the majority,” the group wrote in a statement.

Santorum began the event denouncing the poster takedowns. He said to deny an individual the “right to have their sentiments heard” is a continuing problem on college campuses, which should be an environment for open dialogue between students of opposing positions.

“One side is seen and perceived as the one and only side that can and should be discussed,” he said. “If you have a different opinion that somehow or another you’re either a bigot or a hater – you’re a bad person if you hold these points of view instead of having a real discussion about what those points and views are.”

He then transitioned to a conversation about the Second Amendment, delivering a full defense of gun ownership and referring to gun possession as a necessity for a “healthy society.”

“Why do you have a right to own a gun?” Santorum asked audience members to begin the discussion.

Students said citizens should own guns to prevent government tyranny and for personal protection, which Santorum said were “legitimate answers.”

He said the Second Amendment is a deeply-seated issue where “savage cases,” like the shooting in Las Vegas last month that killed 58 people, sent Democrats to push for more restrictive gun ownership legislation. But he pointed to rising rates of gun ownership in the United States as evidence that the public isn’t responding to the left’s calls.

Santorum cited findings that Americans collectively own more than 300 million guns.

“That’s almost one gun for every person in America,” he said. “The idea of having 300 million guns in this country and trying to do something to take away the ability to have a gun is somewhat absurd.”

Santorum said instead of controlling gun ownership, people should work to ensure that Americans do not use guns in a “malicious or violent way.” He called on citizens to take charge of their individual safety.

“You have to trust somebody else who’s not particularly concerned about your safety – they’re concerned about the public safety,” he said, referring to the police force. “They can’t be here to protect everybody at every moment. you have to take the responsibility to protect yourself.”

He then fielded questions from audience members, who asked about his personal gun training, no-fly lists, the relatively small proportion of conservative millennials and if college students should be able to keep a gun in their residence halls.

Santorum said students should be trusted to understand the responsibility and training necessary to handle a gun.

“Freedom comes with responsibility. Are some people going to be irresponsible? Yes,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, it’s horrible, but passing laws to restrict them has an impact of limiting others in their right and ability to defend themselves.”

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