Conservative comedian sparks debate over gun laws

On Feb. 23 conservative political commentator Steven Crowder spoke to computer science senior Ahad Memon as a part of a video for his YouTube series, “Change My Mind.” Crowder filmed the segment on the Plinth and was invited to campus by the UTD College Republicans. Photo by Cindy Folefack | News Editor.


Conservative political commentator Steven Crowder came to campus to discuss firearm legislation with students and find common ground between their viewpoints and his own. Over the course of his segment, Crowder drew a crowd of about 40 students.

Crowder hosts a YouTube series titled “Change My Mind” — which has garnered over 10 million views — where he interviews students with the goal of being convinced to change his mindset on certain topics, such as his pro-gun stance.

He and his team set up a table in front of the McDermott Library on Feb. 23 to film the show and talk to students. Public affairs freshman Elizabeth Egusquiza serves as president of the College Republicans and sponsored the comedian’s visit. She explained that the visit was planned in advance and only coincided with recent instances of gun violence, such as the school shooting in Florida, out of pure chance.

“This series, ‘Change My Mind,’ is kind of sit down and discuss instead of the crazy conversations that we have in politics,” Egusquiza said. “This is more of a relaxed setting to have a … deeper conversation.”

In addition to his YouTube channel, which has over 1 million subscribers, Crowder also hosts “Louder with Crowder,” an online TV show and podcast that airs on the conservative network CRTV. Past guests on the show include current state senator Ted Cruz, as well as former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee.

Political science junior Fawaz Anwar serves as president of the College Democrats and said while the College Republicans and Crowder were exercising their rights to free speech, the conversations students had with the commentator may not have represented both sides of the debate equally.

“I would start the conversation by including gun owners for sure, but also people who are victims of gun violence, people like Everytown (for Gun Safety), Moms Demand Action (for Gun Sense in America),” Anwar said. “Have more of a roundtable discussion rather than just one viewpoint.”

Anwar also said while Crowder’s event remained peaceful, he believes that the comedian may have been invited for his provocative views rather than to start or continue a conversation.

Crowder interviewed students over the course of three hours last week, and finance sophomore Logan Laird was part of the crowd that gathered to watch. He regularly watches the commentator’s online content and said it allows him to see opposing viewpoints.

“It’s often entertaining, but there’s also a lot of good discussion that goes there as well,” Laird said. “I usually come away agreeing with one of the students he’s interviewing or standing with him, but I see the other side to an argument better.”

Crowder has also gone to Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University as part of his YouTube series, where he discussed topics such as male privilege and abortion. The commentator first visited UTD on Oct. 20 to discuss gun laws, but was asked to leave by UTD police as he didn’t get the university’s permission to film and interview students at that time.

Healthcare studies junior Michael Nguyen is a member of the College Republicans and said he enjoys the relaxed atmosphere Crowder brings to discussions, allowing students to sit down and expand their worldview.

“When an opportunity like this comes about, for any college student who disagrees with other people on certain issues, I think it’s a valuable thing for them to have the experience to go out there and talk about their own opinions,” Nguyen said. “One thing I don’t want us to do is to have these ideas that we agree with and believe, but we don’t actually know why. I think in college, it’s valuable for us to evaluate these beliefs because … this is a place for a getting an education.”

One of the students Crowder interviewed was computer science senior Ahad Memon, who advocated for increased background checks for gun purchases and said that some of the commentator’s facts may have been incorrect.

“I might be misinformed, but at least in doing my research, I didn’t think I was in saying that the gun laws in Texas and in many other states allow for private gun sales, so you don’t need a background check for these private sales,” Memon said. “That’s what I was trying to argue, but he outright said that’s not true and it’s illegal.”

According to Giffords Law Center, Texas doesn’t require background checks for private gun purchases if the seller is an unlicensed dealer. Memon said despite the differences of opinion between him and Crowder, they may have found common ground.

“I just wanted to argue that universal background checks are necessary, and I think he agreed on that,” Menon said. “I think it’s just a question of miscommunication between what is legal and what isn’t.”

Crowder’s table attracted a crowd of students to the Plinth, and Nguyen said the discussions that happened as a result allowed students to learn about their own opinions as well as those that differ.

“If we compare this to the other dialogues we have around the country, a lot of it isn’t productive,” Nguyen said. “We just jeer at each other or make fun of each other, we actually don’t get any conversation done. But here, there are students who actually want to learn more.”


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