‘I had this extreme moment of panic where I thought she was gone’: Berkeley students tell us what they think about gun control

Interviewing students on campus to give those who felt angry, heartbroken, and silenced about Las Vegas a voice

On the night of October 1, time stood still as we watched the news in shock as Stephen Paddock opened fire into a crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival. Fifty-eight dead, some leaving behind children without parents, 489 injured, we were all left to ask, “how did this happen?”

According to USA Today there are 54,026 federally licensed firearm dealers. These numbers don’t include pawn shops, internet sales, that are required to follow federal regulations. But the real danger lies in the 100-200 gun shows a week and purchases from other civilians that don’t require a background check to acquire a firearm, making guns terrifyingly accessible.

“There are 10 types of people who would be rejected by a background check: felons, fugitives, drug addicts, the mentally ill, illegal immigrants, some legal immigrants, people who have renounced U.S. citizenship, people under restraining orders, people convicted of domestic violence and anyone charged with a crime that could bring more than a year in prison are ineligible. But the quality of information submitted to that national database varies by state.”

– USA Today

It is disheartening that even after Sandy Hook, the heartbreaking mass shooting in 2012 that took the lives of 20 children ages 6-7 and six adults, barely budged any gun control laws. If young children dying wouldn’t change anything, nothing would.

With Vegas being the largest mass shooting in US history, it’s not hard to find someone who wasn’t affected. I interviewed students on the UC Berkeley campus, to give those who felt angry, heartbroken, and silenced, a voice.

Natasha Cougoule, Senior, Economics and Portuguese major

Minor in Education/Berkeley Model United Nations – Secretary General

Minor in Education/Berkeley Model United Nations – Secretary General

What are your views on gun control?

“I think we need much stricter gun control. Personally, I have a hard time having love for a Constitution and a set of laws that was established in a time when it was legal to own other people and slaughter indigenous people. Those gun rights enshrined in the Constitution about guns were established when it took two minutes to load a single bullet into a gun.

"Also, the right to arms is promised to militias, not ordinary citizens. You are not a militia. You are a single person. I am personally in favor of abolition of the second amendment and the institution of a buy-back program for all firearms; we should not have the ability to harm 600+ people in 15 minutes as non-military citizens on American soil not combatting a foreign threat.

"Small steps like banning bump stocks is a way for the NRA to get some good PR, but it's not enough. Universal background checks. No guns for domestic abusers, people on the no-fly list, FBI watch list, they should have restricted access to guns.

"If you're doing it for sport, you should be limited to a 15-bullet mag. If you can't hit a deer with 15 bullets, you shouldn't be able to shoot at it in the first place.”

How have past and recent events affected you personally?

“Thankfully, no one I know has been killed through gun violence. “

Why are you pro-gun control?

“I'm anti-gun because I'm anti-American death. Simple as that.”

How do you think you and others can make a difference?

“We need to fight the gun lobby. Hard. It's hard to organize when there's so many things to fight for and all the NRA has to say is "no". That's easy. Reject, always. My late grandpa was a member of the NRA (needless to say he would be disappointed in my politics now) and I'm sure he was politically active as a policeman. We need to get a concentrated, concise message to present.”

Karlianne Rubcic, Sophomore, Peace and Conflict Studies and Rhetoric major

What are your views on gun control?

“I think we should treat it like any public safety issue, you know we have instances or periods of history where we had a ton of car accidents where the CDC was able to research it like what road conditions caused these accidents, what kind of drivers, and how we can best prevent them in the way we manufacture cars. We have car licensing; we’re not even able to research it at this time because of the Dickey Amendment. So I think just like any public safety issue it should be regulated.

"I think people should be licensed to carry them, there should be background checks, waiting periods, just like before you can get in a car and kill people on the road there are certain steps. I think it would be logical that we have these steps for weapons that can cause numerous deaths in a matter of minutes.

How have past and recent events affected you personally?

“I’m not super old obviously, I’m only 19 so the first time gun control really came on my radar was with Sandy Hook. I was only 14 at the time, I remember hearing about and thinking ‘oh how could this happen? How could tiny tiny children and seven adults die all while at school because of one person with a gun.’ And the first time I ever had to get into this debate was with my boyfriend and he throws ‘Oh Second Amendment’ and I was like, ‘but.. babies died like tiny six year old children.’ And that was the first time I realized some people care more about politics than common sense.

"It became a bigger issue for me as shootings that happened every year such as Orlando it was shocking. But I think it when it really hit home for me was when my mom was in Vegas at the Jason Aldean concert where she was in the line of fire. Thankfully she survived and wasn’t harmed but she was in a large group of people who weren’t as lucky and a few of her friends didn’t make it out and escape.

"For me that night I didn’t automatically know that she was OK. I saw the news before I saw her text. I had this extreme moment of panic where I thought she was gone and her friends were gone. The past shootings weren’t geographically close to me, and though I was for gun control, I could’ve lost my mom. And now I got off the phone with her yesterday and she wasn’t physically harmed, the mental effects are still lasting.

"She’s in New York now, every time she hears a drill she jumps out of her skin and has to go inside. It’s something she’s going to have to deal with for a long time now. Fifty-nine people dying while she was just having fun at a concert."

Why are you pro-gun control?

"I'm pro gun control because it makes sense. To get a license to drive they look at your credit, insurance, before you can get behind the wheel and potentially kill people. And that’s with something that doesn’t relate to death. A gun’s purpose is to kill. I think there should be some sort of limitation or class required for this.

"I understand we have the Second Amendment, people want it to hunt, my dad owns a gun; I can say now in high school there were times I would’ve used it on myself rather than an intruder, it’s another form of gun violence we have, suicide is another issue. If I knew where the gun was, who’s to say what I would’ve done what someone in a darker place would do. I don’t think we need guns to protect ourselves, I have had instances with a stalker where I felt unsafe and called the police. I also think semi-automatic and automatic weapons do not need be in the hands of civilians. You do not need it to hunt, or for target practice. The gun used in vegas, there are no reason for silencers, no other reason than ‘fuck it i like guns.’”

How do you think you and others can make a difference?

I feel very fortunate that I’m a native Californian and my representatives, fight for what is correct. There is nothing as a Californian I could do that state representatives aren’t doing. I think we need to educate others, especially different states, writing to my congressman won’t work; it’s preaching to the choir. But if I can change the mind of a Texan and they can change someone else’s mind, maybe…

"In high school we had a shooting drill twice a year, we were under our desks and I was by the window, I asked ‘can we have curtains? I can get shot right now.’ But they said that it’s against school policy to have curtains, hiding under desks won’t do anything we’re just sitting ducks.

"When you look at the hotel and the Vegas shooting, there was nothing that could’ve prevented it from a security standpoint but gun control can. Just making sure people don’t have access to killing machines, i think that’s just common sense."

Alix Carson, Junior, Mechanical Engineering major

What are your views on gun control?

“The Second Amendment will never be abolished and good people should have the right to own a gun. I take issue with how accessible automatic weapons are to all gun owners. I feel they should not be easily obtained by Americans, regardless of their intentions. It just isn’t necessary to own one for hunting or protection.

"As former President Obama has said, owning a gun should be like owning a car. You should need a license and insurance, as well as a thorough background check. It should be about keeping these weapons out of the hands of those who cannot prove that they are responsible.”

How have past and recent events affected you personally?

“At the Salon Meritage shooting in Seal Beach, my mother lost one of her closest friends as well as multiple former coworkers. Mass shootings are devastating and feel far removed until one day you watch your Mom anxiously sitting on a sidewalk outside praying that her friends would walk out of the hair salon and they never do.”

Why are you pro-gun control?

“I am not pro or con. I would say I want to find a resolution to stop the violence. The middle ground where responsible gun owners aren’t punished but people will not live in fear of experiencing a massacre.”

How do you think you and others can make a difference?

“The real change has to come from the government. All we can do as citizens is express what we want and protest/petition for change. California is a great example of a state that has implemented restrictions and I hope others will follow.”

Auryana Faramazi, Senior, Political Economics major

What are your views on gun control?

“I believe that there needs to be seriously reformations on gun control. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons should be prohibited for civilians use. There is no reason a civilian needs to defends themselves with a weapon like that. There also needs to be more detailed and in depth background checks in terms of mental instability.”

How have past and recent events affected you personally?

“Although I haven't lost anyone directly in an incident, I live in fear. I am scared to go do the things I usually enjoy such as concerts or large events where mass crowds congregate in the fear that I might be shot. How many more mass murders does there need to be for us to realize that this nation has a problem with gun control?”

Why are you pro-gun control?

“I am pro-gun control because i do not understand why any person needs a deadly weapon ‘for their protection’, but i also think it is unrealistic to.”


After these interviews it became apparent how passionate students felt about the tens of thousands that die from guns each year. How is it that so many people can feel terrified to live a normal life in this country? The tremendous numbers that make us feel as though it's only a matter of time until something happens to us? How can we have our voices heard, when can we have the right to study the effects of our Second Amendment, and when will it be enough?

UC Berkeley