By: Antoinette D’Addario
Growing up in liberal Monmouth, New Jersey, Annamarie Rienzi’s conservative ideals, particularly about gun ownership, were often out of place. Being a woman and person of color, she is someone the gun lobby wants on their side. Rienzi, a junior studying political science, became involved with Young Americans for Liberty after working on the Rand Paul 2016 Presidential campaign. Young Americans for Liberty is a national pro-liberty organization with chapters at college campuses across the United States and purports the principles of liberty, small government and constitutionalism. Rienzi became involved with Yong Americans for Liberty after the Students for Rand organization at American University ended with the conclusion of his 2016 presidential bid. She now serves as the DC State Chair for Young Americans for Liberty.
Despite having never shot a gun, Rienzi was drawn to the Second Amendment debate, in large part due to the amount of misinformation surrounding the issue.
“You know, people think ‘oh we protect the second amendment because we like to hunt’ or … ‘we want to protect ourselves against robbers or murderers … but really it’s all about protecting yourself from a tyrannical government should one come about,” Rienzi said.
Looking to career opportunities, Rienzi said she believes Second Amendment advocacy is something she could be passionate about and consider a future in.
According to Rienzi, the gun debate is particularly important for college students because college campuses are ripe targets for shootings and unstable people with guns. Particularly in the District, a liberal city, she said she believes it is important to have the facts and keep in mind how one would respond to a situation if a gun was present.
“We have to keep in mind if there was a shooter on campus and I have no access to a gun, I certainly can’t bring one into the district, how I would react [in] that situation,” she asked.
Rienzi sees potential in the new President and his ability to ensure the Second Amendment is upheld, but she finds him inept when it comes to solving problems.
“He’s very good at identifying problems, but he’s not very good at how to fix them,” she said.
Referencing Chicago, Rienzi found his suggestion to send the National Guard to the city to deal with the high crime rate alarming. She argued it would be more beneficial to train people how to properly engage with guns rather than send in the armed forces to try and rectify the problem.
One of the most difficult areas of the gun debate is the controversy over whether or not people with mental health issues should be allowed to own guns.
“I think that it’s extremely hard to argue against the fact that the most killings committed by guns [in America] are suicides,” Rienzi said.
She believes this issue should not be dealt with by regulating gun ownership, rather by mental health professionals.
“People aren’t getting the help they need,” she said.
She further said she believes that, even with stricter gun laws, mentally ill people would likely still be able to get ahold off firearms, pointing out that the majority of gun crimes are committed by weapons that were illegally obtained. Furthermore, implementing a policy where anyone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness is a slippery slope, according to Rienzi. She pointed to the growing number of young people being diagnosed with mental illnesses from ADHD and ADD to anxiety and depression. Moreover, the Constitution guarantees every American the right to own a gun, and Rienzi argued this right should never be infringed, regardless of a person’s mental health. She also expressed concern that the government, who guns are supposed to be there to protect oneself from, would be the one drawing the line for who can and cannot own a firearm.
However, Rienzi does not deny that there is a gun problem in this country, particularly when it comes to mass shootings.
“I think that the idea of mass shootings is a tragedy is really something our country needs to face. When I hear someone say, ‘that’s not a problem in America’ that’s just flat out wrong,” she said.
But she believes these crimes are a result of high levels of anger and despondency in the country. The only way, according to Rienzi, to lower these numbers, is to increase gun ownership.
“I think that the only thing that could stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”