On April 6, a debate between Rocky Mountain College students and Ireland’s National Debate champions was hosted in Prescott’s Great Hall.
Long-time debate director Shelby Jo Long-Hammond started off the evening with brief remarks on the culture of debate. Long-Hammond noted that debate at RMC has had a long history dating back to the 1950s.
She stated, “One thing that is very unique about our program is that [we] have some pretty amazing connections all over the world.” In the past academic year, the debate team has had the opportunity to travel to Morocco, Ireland, Hawaii, and New York.
After Long-Hammond spoke, junior Bella Goss introduced the debaters for the night. First up for Rocky was Flavya Siqueira, a senior history and political science major with minors in business management, economics, and pre-law. Sitting beside her was Jack Jennaway, a senior communication studies, history, and political science major. Rocky’s third debator was ASRMC president, Gerald Giebink, a fellow senior with business and political science majors.
Next, the Irish guests were introduced.
First was Amy Crean; who studies law and social justice at the University College Dublin. She has been named “Best Individual Speaker” for the Irish Nationals. Crean stated to the Irish Times, “Debating across borders helps in numerous ways including understanding different perspectives on issues, the various impacts of any stance, and learning from others’ experiences.”
The second student was Cian Leahy, who is currently completing his sixth year of medical studies at UCD. Leahy has an impressive debate resume and an extensive record of volunteering for many good causes.
The third Irish champion was Aodhan Peelo, a UCD student studying philosophy and law. Peelo also has a remarkable debate resume alongside his two team members. In the Irish Times he said, “I think one of the most important parts are the discussions that happen after debates.”
During her speaking time, Siqueira stated that with less guns the US could reduce the amount of mass shootings. She noted since January 2018 the country has suffered at least 18 school shootings.
In opposition, Peelo stood up to state that cars and toilets kill more people than guns. In rebuttal, Siqueira affirmed her argument that Americans should relinquish gun ownership as a right for the sake of public security. Her stance was that gun ownership should be considered a privilege; not a right.
Leahy, during his allotted speaking time, pointed out that crime involves many social, economic, political, and religious factors. To focus simply on guns is to simplify the issue. He mentioned there are currently about 300 million guns in America today that many people will be reluctant to just “hand in.” Leahy asserted that individuals should have the right to self-defense by saying that the police cannot be everywhere to protect citizens all the time.
Jennaway spoke next; referencing the Second Amendment and specific freedoms in America. He pointed out that many people commit suicide using guns. Jennaway explained with a reduction in guns available, people will be less inclined to use them for committing suicide. As suicide is a growing epidemic, reducing guns might make a significant impact in reducing those numbers.
Crean started her argument by refuting Jennaway; stating Ireland has very specific gun restrictions and yet they still have staggering suicide rates. She referenced a famous location in Japan, otherwise known as the “Sea of Trees” where people go to end their lives. Crean’s point was that people take their own lives whether guns are available or not.
Speaking last for RMC, Giebink supported his case for gun restriction by referencing the growing methamphetamine epidemic in Montana. Giebink explained that Montana has implemented laws creating stricter provisions to buy the ingredients needed for methamphetamine; thereby lowering its consumption.
Last up for the Irish Nationals was Peelo. He ended the debate by stating there are people for freedom of speech, even if they aren’t going to use it to slander, just as there are people for the right to bear arms, even if they aren’t going to use it for illicit purposes.
The judges for the debate included Billings councilmember Penny Ronning, RMC professors David Crisp and Art Lusse, and RMC President Bob Wilmouth. Ronning announced that after much deliberation, the judges were pleased to announce the Irish Nationals as the winners.
Once the debate concluded, the Irish debaters spoke about their time in Montana. They were happy to report that their time in America was very fulfilling.
Leahy said, “Every place [we’ve traveled to in the U.S.] has been interesting in their own way. Although the food is always different and the people are different, but always really welcoming.”
When asked if the debate tonight had changed their views on gun control, all three politely said no; they felt much more safe and protected with the current gun restrictions held in Ireland.
The debate team will be traveling next to Fort Peck Community College Wednesday April 11, as part of their Tribal College Debate Program.