What is your number? A conversation on guns in America

Dr. Roger Hartley. Photo from WCU Political Science Department.


The debate over gun control in the United States has been going on for years, and since the Sandy Hook shooting, the debate has intensified and gained a lot of media attention. You almost cannot watch the news without hearing accounts of gun violence, pundits weighing in on the issue, or information on what the politicians in our country are planning to do about it. There is however, a huge discrepancy between watching politicians talk about gun control and violence, and actually being personally affected by a bullet.

Dr. Roger E. Hartley, a political science professor at Western Carolina University has been personally affected by someone pulling a trigger. In January this year a horrific tragedy befell Hartley and his family. Their very dear friend, Mark Hummels, was shot and killed in Phoenix, Arizona.

Following this shocking and extremely sad loss of his friend, Hartley was asked to write an appreciation of Hummels for the Tucson Weekly. Writing the appreciation of his friend really got him thinking about gun violence in America, and made him wonder, how many of us know someone that have been affected by a bullet?

He took this question to social media and created a group on Facebook, called “What Is Your Number?” This is the exact question Hartley posted on the Facebook page, “Please answer how many people you have known (people you’ve talked to) who have been the victims of gun violence? Suicide, accidental, murder… otherwise. No politics. … No judgment. Just a number.”

The responses poured in, and the group now has over 600 members. The original article Hartley wrote for the Tucson Weekly was quickly picked up by MSNBC The New York Times, and The Washington Post. The Washington Post then took the question to residents of Washington D.C. The discussion is still very much alive on this Facebook page, and around our country.

“I think the best thing about this project is that it gets people talking,” said Hartley.

The Second Amendment states that, “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. With the gun debate has heated up there are people who are concerned that their Second Amendment rights are in jeopardy. Politicans have been talking about if it needs to be altered because we live in a different age with much more technology than when the Second Amendment was penned. Below is Hartley’s response on the Second Amendment and how it is used in the gun debate today. 


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