SRC President wants guns on campus: what do students think?

March For Our Lives protest (2018) || Photo by Alex Radelich on Unsplash

The plague of gun violence afflicts the United States daily, with the most recent example claiming four lives. On August 26th, a man from Jacksonville, Florida, shot and killed three people and then himself in a racially motivated massacre. The crime is one of 470 mass shootings perpetrated in the US in 2023 alone. The United States is prolific for gun violence, facing global criticism for its lax firearm regulations and promoting gun culture.

However, on more familiar shores, Australians enjoy a relatively gun-free country. Following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, the Australian government launched a mandatory gun buyback scheme wherein over 650,000 guns were confiscated from gun owners. Gun violence significantly lowered, with the average firearm homicide rate decreasing by about 42 per cent.

So, even though our gun reform was a resounding success in reducing gun violence, why does our SRC president think we need guns on campus?

The president’s argument:

Current SRC President Daniel Bonatti seems to have an affinity for the US approach, moving a motion to support students’ rights to carry guns in August’s SRC meeting. The president wrote in his motion:

“Mass shootings in educational institutions and Universities in the USA is daily occurrence. With SRC having collectives and equity groups the rooms provided for women, chaplain, praying rooms Christian and Muslim, queers and indigenous are the frontline of being targeted. SRC cannot depend on security. Students need to have a right to keep and bear arms for self-defense…I, [Daniel Bonatti] move that: The Student Representative Council (SRC) of Western Sydney University in principle supports the right to keep and bear arms.”

SRC puts motion in the firing line:

The SRC unanimously voted against the motion, with the consensus of the council agreeing that campuses are safer without guns.

…We do not need any extra guns. Beyond the fact we have absolutely no power over state and federal decision-making, this motion is very much void…Australia is a very lucky country. We don’t have any weapons available to those who can just walk into Coles or Woolies to purchase one… let’s keep our campuses gun-free and keep the legislation John Howard came up with many years ago. It saved lives in the long run…,” Vice President Bayan Sohailee commented.

Laine Fox, the campus representative for Parramatta City, took his opposition a step further. Putting forward an urgent motion to condemn Daniel Bonatti for his pro-gun stance, Fox scrutinised Bonatti’s crude use of derogatory slurs such as ‘queers’ and ignorance surrounding the victims of gun violence.

“Off the bat, I think this is a disgusting motion… there is a reason we don’t have massacres in Australia. It is because we put in those laws and reforms around guns… to quote the fact that we have religious prayer rooms and queer rooms as safe spaces on campus is disgusting, especially when guns have caused so much harm to not only my community, being the LGBTQI+ community…, but also to a number of religious communities across the world…We have a significant number of international students on our campuses, many of whom come from countries that are war-torn and have suffered through gun violence on multiple occasions,” Laine Fox commented.

Even Romonda Eid, the seconder of the motion, voted against it. Romonda later clarified that she mistakenly seconded the motion after misreading its contents.

Sticking to his guns? President doubles down:

Yet, Bonatti did not back down.

I haven’t said anything disgusting. I’ve plainly put across a point of view that exists in a country with three hundred and thirty million people, being the right to bear arms,” he stated in his reply.

Bonatti then continued to claim that there were serious security risks at Bankstown campus, as there is easy access to safe spaces such as the queer rooms and prayer rooms.

Students speak out against the motion:

“If guns are allowed, then how will we feel safe doing exams? It’s an absolute joke,” law student Rachel comments.

“Bringing a gun to university for ‘self-defence’ is insane. We aren’t America,” studentBushra says.

However, not all students were opposed to the idea.

“As someone who grew up with a defence family and is in the defence, you’re taught how to use them… Since then, I’ve agreed that carrying weaponry is, to a degree, okay if you’re aware of its capabilities and have the necessary training. Meaning only really defence members who have passed infantry training/basic are the only ones permitted to carry,” Jay, a student of WSU, comments.

To sum it up…

Unless Australia suddenly changes its gun laws, Western Sydney University will remain firearm-free for the foreseeable future. However, Daniel Bonatti’s SRC motion has reminded us of a sobering reality: Our country’s gun control is only as strong as Australians’ support.

If you find yourself in need of assistance, there are resources you can access that can provide advice in times of need, including:

If you find yourself in need of assistance, there are resources you can access that can provide advice in times of need, including:

Western Sydney University: Welfare and Wellbeing Services

1800RESPECT: Call 1800 737 732

Kids Helpline: Call 1800 55 1800.

Lifeline: Call 13 11 14text 0477 13 11 14 or chat online.

QLife: 1800 184 527

Ruby Ritchie

Ruby is currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts and is currently an…

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