Panelists at Syracuse University examine gun violence in America

Panelists came together at Syracuse University's Hendricks Chapel to discuss gun violence in the U.S.

A panel discussion on Tuesday night at Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse University campus explored the subject of guns and gun violence in America.

The discussion, called "Guns and America: Join the Conversation," included Stephen Barton, a survivor from the Aurora, Colorado theater massacre and a recent Syracuse University graduate.

"I think part of the problem is that the American public typically doesn't pay attention to gun violence, except when these mass tragedies happen," Barton said.

Gun violence is also an issue of particular importance for Syracuse Common Councilor Helen Hudson. At Tuesday night's discussion, Hudson reported that Syracuse has seen 323 homicides since 1996.

Hudson particularly related gun violence back to the children it affects. "We talk to third, fourth and fifth grade students," explained Hudson. "Standard question we ask is, 'How many have been affected by the violence?' All of the hands go up. And then the tears start."

Despite the presence of gun violence that Hudson described in Syracuse, SUNY Cortland political science chair Robert Spitzer explained that the number of guns owned by Americans has decreased. Spitzer said that 50 years ago, roughly half of all Americans owned at least one gun. Today, that number is down to only about a third.

Spitzer also went on to discuss firearm legislation. "Guns are, compared to nearly every other consumer item you can think of, subject to less regulation than almost any other consumer item," Spitzer said. "And the reason for that is not law or the Second Amendment, but politics."

Panelist and former NRA lobbyist Scott Armstong spoke out against gun violence, but made his point about guns clear: "The fact of the matter is that guns are here, and they're not going anywhere."

During the question and answer period of the conversation, Barton summed up the discussion saying, "No matter what side of the debate you come down on, one thing I've learned, at least in my own experience, is just how important it is to be involved in the debate."