On Feb. 14, 2018, a tragedy occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida: 17 people lost their lives in an act of pointless violence. Everyone agrees that mass shootings like this one occur far too often. As the Public Relations Director of the UGA College Republicans, I can say that our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the 17 victims and that we as an organization categorically condemn gun violence to the utmost degree.

Unfortunately, thoughts and prayers are not enough. We must listen to one another and have the tough conversations to find a way through this heartbreak. In the aftermath of these tragedies, instead of coming together to find common ground and a united path forward, the most extreme opinions dominate the headlines and sow further division among us. With tensions high and much confusion and chaos, it is important to clarify the positions of each side so that informed discussions can lead to constructive solutions. Therefore, I will explain the position of the UGA College Republicans.

First, two common misconceptions about the Republican Party’s stance on guns are: that Republicans believe that everyone should have a gun, and that guns should be as easy to purchase as possible. These categorizations are false. Our position is that, if you are a law-abiding citizen, then you should be able to exercise your constitutionally guaranteed right to own a gun or not to own a gun.

We unequivocally support the Second Amendment, which gives the American people the right to keep and bear arms. However, we also support common-sense gun legislation. There should be stronger background checks in place to ensure that only people who are mentally stable and are not violent criminals and felons are allowed to buy a gun. Also, we do not believe that civilians should be armed with automatic weapons or be able to modify a legal weapon to a point where it becomes automatic and is no longer legal. Additionally, we support raising the age limit to purchase semi-automatic weapons to 21; no 18-year-old person should have access to this weaponry.

Furthermore, we support the adherence to existing laws by the public and the enforcement of these laws by the authorities. The Parkland shooting was in large part a result of a string of impermissible failures within the FBI. The FBI was warned several times in advance about the shooter, but Nikolas Cruz still slipped through the cracks, and that is unacceptable.

These are the positions of the UGA College Republicans. We want productive discourse where both sides can come together to find a common-sense solution to mass shootings, especially school shootings. We, like everyone else in America, are greatly disturbed by the violence that recently transpired in Parkland, Florida, and it is time to stop hoping for a solution and to start actively pursuing one.