Shots Fired!: The Spike Cohen-David Hogg Gun Rights Debate

The Dartmouth Political Union recently hosted a debate entitled “Guns in America: An Expert Debate on Gun Control,” in which former Libertarian Party Vice Presidential candidate Spike Cohen squared off against notorious gun control advocate David Hogg. As with most debates regarding gun rights, the focus primarily dealt with various statistics involving firearms and homicides, interpretations of the Second Amendment as understood by the founders, and how civil liberties and the right to self-defense factored into the discussion. 


As the debate opened, David Hogg, attempting to appear nuanced, framed his position as “not solely about addressing how someone gets a gun,” but also “why somebody feels the need to kill somebody else, which I think most of us in this room actually agree on.” He elaborated further in his opening remarks concerning his view on natural rights and how they relate to law and order in society:


“…I’ll acknowledge that no law is perfect by any means, but there’s still the need to have them in a society with order, and that applies to guns as well…No right is unlimited, there’s a reason that you can’t scream ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. But that also means that we have to address, as I said, why somebody picks up a gun.”


When it came time for Spike Cohen’s opening statement, it was immediately transparent that he came locked and loaded with data to refute the ridiculous notion that more guns in a specific area lead to more murders being committed:  


“I’m happy to be here in Hanover, New Hampshire, where it is… the easiest place in the country, to get a firearm. It has the least firearms restrictions of any state in the Union. It also happens to have the lowest homicide rate, and it’s not alone. The other states that also have permitless carry and some of the loosest restrictions on firearms ownership are the neighboring states of Vermont and Maine. Those are the three lowest homicide rates in the country. Their rates are actually comparable to Europe.” 


When the debate drifted into focusing on the participants’ respective interpretations of the Second Amendment, the divide could not be any more obvious. Hogg’s understanding of the Founders’ intent regarding the “well-regulated militia” clause was something akin to a massive police state in which every residence that housed legally purchased firearms would be subject to Orwellian surveillance:


“Every 18 to 45-year-old man, white men in particular, in the United States, would be required or either provided an M16, and the Federal government would be allowed to come into their house and ensure without a warrant that you actually have that firearm in the first place.” 


Cohen, on the other hand, cited the author of the Second Amendment’s actual intent directly: 


“The writer of the Second Amendment was very clear: This is confirming a pre-existing individual, natural right for you to keep and bear arms, and he’s explicitly mentioning the fact that you should be able to do that if necessary to rise up against your own government.” 


He then went on to refute Hogg’s notion that federal oversight of firearm ownership had anything to do with the Founders’ worldview:


“I don’t know of any Founders who indicated that they were mandating the use of firearms or the ownership of firearms.” 


As the debate progressed, Hogg made an assertion that there is “one common theme” to all of the arguments Cohen was presenting which is “selling more guns.” In response, Cohen delivered what was arguably his best remark during the entire course of the discussion to thunderous applause: 


“You are probably the single greatest salesperson for guns.”


However, perhaps the greatest moment of the debate occurred during the Q&A portion when Chinese-American and congressional candidate Lily Tang Williams came to the microphone with a question addressed to Hogg. Citing her experience and survival under communism, as well as Mao’s Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward’s killing of millions of people, Williams asked the following:


“So my question to you, David, is that can you guarantee me, a gun owner, tonight, that our government in the US, in DC, will never, never become a tyrannical government? Can you guarantee that to me?”


When Hogg conceded that there was “no way I can ever guarantee that any government will not be tyrannical,” Williams’s response stole the show:


“Well then, the debate on gun control is over because I will never give up my guns, never, never, and you should go to China to see how gun control works for dictatorship.” 


Williams’s remarks concretely demonstrate the skepticism everyone should have regarding government, and that it is our responsibility as citizens to remain vigilant toward the ever-present threat of tyranny. We can only guarantee a free society by protecting the right to own a firearm for self-defense. To quote Thomas Jefferson: 


“And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.” 

Watch the entire debate here:

Eric Madden, Copywriter & Editor

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