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 supports 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.
Rienzi says she 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.
According to Rienzi, the gun debate is particularly important for college students because, she says, 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 for expanded gun rights and reduced gun violence under the new President, 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.
Rienzi found Trump’s suggestion to send the National Guard to Chicago to deal with the high crime rate alarming.
“That’s probably not the way that I’d go about fixing it. A lot of my advocacy actually has to do, in regards to the second amendment, with training people the right way to use guns safely,” she said.
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 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. “The fact of the matter remains that they’ll probably be able to get the gun regardless [of their mental health].”
According to gunfacts.info, 93% of guns used in crimes are illegally obtained, meaning background checks and gun laws would not have prevented them from getting them.
“If I was writing the laws, I would agree with the age restriction,” she said. “But I would say that there shouldn’t be restrictions for mental health just because that’s such a slippery slope.”
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.
“I think that [mental health] definitely creates a bit of a problem, especially when the government, which the guns are supposed to be there to fight, are the ones drawing the line of where the mental health qualifier would be,” she said.
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 I think that’s more representative of the amount of violence in the country as a whole and the amount of sadness and despondency in our populace and not so much a statement about the machines that we use to commit those acts of complete terror,” she said.
Despite the ability of guns to kill more people in a short period than most other weapons, Reinzi only sees one solution to the problem.
“I think that the only thing that could stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”