College Republicans, Democrats host policy debate at MTSU

Photo by Caleb Revill / MTSU Sidelines

Representatives from MTSU’s College Republicans and College Democrats hosted a policy debate in the Student Union Building Thursday night.

Participating in the debate was April Carroll, the chairman of the College Republicans; Madison Albertson, the recruitment director of the College Republicans; Dalton Slatton, president of the College Democrats and Nathan Watkins, vice president of the College Democrats. Lauren Hennessee moderated the debate.

Hennessee explained that the debate would be divided into major issues including the Second Amendment, immigration and abortion. The audience would be alloted time after the debate to ask questions to any of the participants.

“How does your party feel about gun control?”

The first question that Hennessee asked was for both sides to explain their party’s position on gun control. Watkins answered for the College Democrats, explaining that, for most Democrats, stances on gun control are correlated to geographic location in the country.

“It depends where you’re at in the nation, because we have so many different factions of Democrats in the Democratic Party,” Watkins said. “If you are more in a Massachusetts (or) New York area, a lot of people would tell you, ‘We don’t believe in guns. It’s not really our thing up here.’ When you’re down south, when you talk about Tennessee Democrats, the first thing you have to realize is a lot of people hunt.”

Watkins said that he “fell under that category of Democrat,” explaining that he grew up around guns and hunted all of his life.

“It’s just something that’s natural to me,” Watkins said. “A lot of people that you talk to down South (would) say, ‘I don’t mind guns, but I’m not looking for gun control.’ When the Democratic Party talks about gun control, we are not talking about taking away every single gun that you own. We are talking about limiting guns.”

Watkins explained a few months ago, he and Slatton were in Las Vegas for the College Democrats National Convention, and they “stood where 58 people died in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.”

“We looked at this, and we looked at each other and thought, ‘There is no way that anything like this should have happened in modern-day America,’” Watkins said.

Watkins said that he believes bump stocks should be illegal, but semi-automatic weapons are “not the worst thing in the world.”

“When it comes down to the subject of the AR-15, that’s kind of an ‘iffy’ standpoint with most Democrats,” Watkins said. “Most Democrats will tell you, ‘No, I do not agree with a person owning an AR-15. It is not their right to do that. It is a military grade weapon, and that military grade weapon needs to stay with the military.’”

Carroll answered for the College Republicans, saying that the Republican Party “feels very strongly about the Second Amendment.” She cited the District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court case in 2008.

“D.C. v. Heller ruled that the Second Amendment is for individual rights and not collective rights, such as the National Guard,” Carroll said. “If that isn’t a good enough answer for you, that the constitution says that we have those rights, then a 2013 study shows that between 1980 and 2009, assault weapons bans did not significantly affect the number of murder rates on a state level. And, states with restrictions on carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murders.”

Carroll explained that the Republican Party doesn’t believe in big government and gun control.

“It just simply doesn’t work,”  Carroll said. “We’re taking away our constitutional rights and then implementing it with federal government overreach? No thank you.”

Carroll used Chicago as a “prime example” of gun control failing.

“In 2014 alone, (Chicago) had 2098 victims, with at least 390 of those being murders,” Carroll said. “Gun control didn’t stop those crimes from happening. In fact, Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws. They have banned assault weapons, high capacity magazines and they’ve also banned gun shops. These gun laws didn’t stop the criminals from committing those crimes with firearms.”

Carroll also cited a Pew Research study, in which “61 percent of men and 56 percent of women said that stricter gun laws would make it more difficult for them to protect their homes and families.”

“How does your party feel about DACA?”

Hennessee asked that representatives from both parties explain their party’s views on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Albertson brought the printed definition of DACA to assist with her explanation. She explained that DACA does not provide lawful status for the children who utilize it.

“What it does is it allows them to be here,” Albertson said. “They have a certain period of time, (and) it is up for renewal. The problem is that under the current administration, there have been a lot of issues of whether to keep this going (or) whether to shut it down.”

Albertson explained that she thought both parties were “very confused about this.”

“They’re telling people who are under DACA to not worry … but they’re still up in whim about it,” Albertson said. “This isn’t a Republican (or) Democrat thing. This is an everywhere, all-around (issue).”

Slatton then answered for the democratic party’s views on DACA. He said that he agreed with Albertson’s point of defining DACA so that it could be better addressed.

“I feel like DACA to some people may be a bad word,” Slatton said. “And, it’s not. It does deal with immigration … I think that one of the key stances for Democrats on why we’re so passionate about keeping certain provisions of DACA, is (that) we have a lot of children who are brought here when they’re fleeing from Central America … That child doesn’t have a say-so in that decision to come here.”

Slatton explained that sending children back to their home countries is a negative for everyone. 

“I think that both parties can get behind that nobody wants to send these kids back,” Slatton said. “No one wants to just drop them in the middle of somewhere they don’t know. But, how do we get them to where they’re legal here in the United States? Democrats want a pathway to citizenship, and that seems to be the contention point. I think, to start off, we’ve got to come together and agree that we want to protect these children first.”

Stances on abortion

The final section of the debate involved Hennessee asking each party’s representatives why they support a pro-choice or pro-life stance on the issue of abortion.

Watkins answered for the College Democrats.

“With this stance, it all comes down to ideology,” Watkins said.

Watkins explained that “no one person is going to agree with anybody else on an abortion stance.”

“If you talk to somebody more on the liberal-left side, they will tell you, ‘It’s my body, my choice … The law says I can do this,’” Watkins said. “If you talk to somebody on the far-right, you’re going to hear someone that says ‘This is pro-life. This is murder, (and) you’re killing a child. At the end of the day, it’s not about what is right or is wrong. It’s about what you think is right or is wrong.”

Watkins talked about “the biggest debate right now over abortion,” or third trimester abortions.

“In my opinion, I don’t think an abortion in the third trimester is the greatest thing in American history, but politicians agree with me,” Watkins said.

Carroll answered for the College Republicans.

“We really believe in the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and we think that that starts with conception and the fact that this is a life,” Carroll said. “We believe that that life has every right to live as fully as possible.”

Carroll provided statistics on abortion in the U.S.

“Three percent of abortions happen because of rape,” Carroll said. “.03 percent of abortions happen because of incest, and .2 percent of abortions happen in the case of the mother’s life (being) at risk.”

Carroll believed that those cases were “very minute and don’t really make up the entire abortion argument.”

Carroll then quoted Ben Shapiro, a conservative American commentator. She said that she believed Shapiro explained the abortion issue best.

“A first trimester fetus has moral value, because whether you consider it a potential human life or a full on human life, it has more value than just a cluster of cells,” Carroll said, quoting one of Shapiro’s speeches. “If left to its natural processes, it will grow into a baby. So, the real question here is where do you draw the line?”

At the end of the debate, the audience members were given time to ask questions for both parties.

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email

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1 Comment

  1. Jennifer G Carter
    April 28, 2018

    I think that it is a very educational thing for young political activists to be able to have practice discussing controversial topics in a low-pressure environment. The two parties were very respectful of each other during this debate, which is not necessarily the case for actual politicians and it sheds light on those who may very well be our country’s future leaders and activists. MTSU as a public institution is doing a great job of providing opportunities for young politicians to hone their debate skills as well as learn how to navigate events like debates in a way that is professional. It is also interesting to see the two very different viewpoints college students, just like the rest of the country, have. It has always seemed to me that college students are generalized as being less conservative than older generations, so it is interesting hearing the views and opinions of those that are my age who are more conservative than college students are portrayed as being. I believe that it is incredibly important to let everyone, regardless of their views, have a safe and neutral environment to speak their mind and talk about the subjects they are passionate about and I am glad that I attend a school that provides this for its students.