The Cost of Controversy

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Standing within 400 feet of the building where three professors tragically lost their lives to gun violence, Charlie Kirk stood, unwavering in his belief that such tragedies are somehow “worth it.” Kirk, a prominent right-wing figure and president of Turning Point USA, thrives on controversy to propel his political campaign, unconcerned for potential bystanders.

On Friday, Kirk visited UNLV to instigate debate on his extreme right-wing political beliefs. Amongst those beliefs, exists the unsettling notion that gun violence deaths are a ‘prudent deal’ in pursuit of his political agenda. 

“You will never live in a society when you have an armed citizenry, and you won’t have a single gun death,” Kirk said at a Turning Point USA Faith event last year, as reported by Media Matters for America. “That is nonsense. It’s drivel. But I am—I think it’s worth it.”

“I think it’s worth to have a cost of, unfortunately, some gun deaths every single year so that we can have the Second Amendment to protect our other God-given rights.” Kirk explained last year. “That is a prudent deal.”

Kirk’s messages have often ignited intense debate and attracted widespread condemnation. The impact of his words hit closer to home for UNLV, which tragically experienced a mass shooting on December 6th, 2023.

“Charlie Kirk is a reactionary, who wants to stir up controversy in order to further his own statue online, for his own personal gain,” says Mack Gledhill, a UNLV student. “Anybody who has experienced gun violence would not feel the same.”

As Kirk addressed students at UNLV, his proximity to the site of recent tragedy served as a jarring juxtaposition, underscoring the discord between his rhetoric and the community’s collective grief.

“It’s disrespectful and he knows that. Something like violence isn’t up for debate,” says Millan. “Real people died in Beam Hall, and they wanted to live. They didn’t want a memorial on campus.”

However, Kirk’s political beliefs extend beyond the realm of gun control; he navigates continues issues to further stoke the flames of controversy. During his visit to campus, a student confronted Kirk on his stance regarding the undocumented community in the United States. Kirk’s response was stark, “So yeah, illegal aliens, they should all be deported.” 

Kirk’s rhetoric perpetuates a cycle of animosity and division. Nayelli Rico Lopez, coordinator of the Undocumented Student Program at UNLV emphasized the harmful impact of Kirk’s language, particularly in a city like Las Vegas, where approximately 7% of the population is undocumented. 

“This is not the first person who uses these words [illegal and alien], and it is not going to be the last,” Rico Lopez stated. “But it is harmful because it deconstructs what we have been working for, which is to create an inclusive environment for all students, including undocumented immigrants. I want to reiterate that we value our undocumented students on campus; we see them, and we appreciate them.”

Rico’s statement calls on a growing awareness about the impact of language on shaping perception and attitudes towards marginalized communities. This call refers to a broader shift in discourse towards recognizing the inherent dignity and humanity of all individuals, regardless of their immigration status. 

“It’s dehumanizing,” said Alejandro Rios, a UNLV student. “I think that a big conversation amongst the people involved with the undocumented community, not just in this campus but in this country as a whole, is moving away from that terminology because, at the end of the day, no person is illegal.”

As the struggles of undocumented immigrants persist on campuses nationwide and the echoes of gun violence reverberate through the halls of UNLV, it becomes increasingly evident that the path to healing and reconciliation requires more than just condemnation of extremist views. It demands a collective commitment to fostering understanding, inclusivity and advocacy within our educational spaces.

“I think we need to get together as a community and work to demand better from people in charge of our university and our state,” said Gledhill. “There are some people working on that, but it’s time for the rest of our student population to join in.”

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