Having gone toe-to-toe over several debates on such issues as gun control, abortion and immigration for decades, Angela “Bay” Buchanan made a stop Thursday in Maryville to encourage students to take their own stand on what matters most.

Buchanan, a native of Washington, D.C., served in President Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign and, at 32, became his national treasurer — the youngest to hold the position. She worked on six presidential campaigns, has written two books and for years served as a political analyst for national media like CNN and MSNBC. She is the sister of Pat Buchanan.

Her visit was made possible by the Maryville High School Chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative, nonpartisan organization with chapters across the country. MHS is one of only a few high schools to have a chapter; most are on college campuses.

She was asked to talk on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gives Americans the right to own guns. She said it was the founding fathers’ intentions to provide a way for citizens to protect themselves and their families as they settled new territories. And without guns, this country wouldn’t have been able to defeat the British in the American Revolution, she said.

“The right to own guns is right behind and only second to religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” Buchanan told the 150 gathered in the MHS auditorium Thursday morning.

Despite her staunch standing on the issue, Buchanan admitted she doesn’t own a gun, but added, “I will fight for your rights to do so.”

Guns, guns everywhere

There are 350 million guns in this country, Buchanan said. The United States is No. 1 in the world when it comes to gun ownership. She said there are now more than 40 states that allow people to carry a concealed weapon.

“We like our guns,” Buchanan said. “No questions about it. Forty-two percent of households own guns.”

On the issue of the horrific mass shootings that have become almost commonplace, Buchanan said the answer is not fewer guns, but more, out in the hands of those who are educated to handle them.

The weapon up for debate is the AR-15, Buchanan said. It is used by hunters and other sportsmen. Women train on them because there is little kickback.

“They call it an assault weapon,” she said. “It’s a popular gun is what it is. Don’t be fooled by the language.”

Schools, churches, malls and movie theaters — these are the locations of choice for mass killers. She said these “soft targets” all have one thing in common: They are places where guns aren’t allowed. Buchanan also told the students there should be guns in schools and churches. She said schools shouldn’t put guns into the hands of officials who don’t want them. Trained staff should be in place should an attacker gain entry.

Churches are now asking some members of their congregations to bring guns to services and be part of a security team, Buchanan said.

“This is how you take care of people,” she said. While she travels the country sharing her beliefs, Buchanan said she faces opposition on most college campuses. She encourages it.

Find your voice

She challenged these high school students to pick a cause, study and learn both sides and be bold in their defenses.

“You don’t have to be an elected officials to be a leader,” Buchanan said. Leaders develop thick skins against opposition and are not deterred, she told the students.

Before her speech, Buchanan talked about her time working with Reagan for 10 years. She said she loved every single day of it. And it was a day when, despite political leanings, the president was someone people could respect.

“Some might not have been with him on the issues, but they loved him,” she said.

After her presentation, students and faculty were allowed to ask questions. One male student brought up a recent speaker who was on the other side of gun control. It was an emotional argument, the student said.

Buchanan responded that emotion and passion are needed to make a point, along with facts. But, she said to argue that guns should be melted down to rid this country of them is not even remotely possible.

“We have 350 million guns,” she reiterated, “It is not happening.”

The debate wages on

Another student brought up the argument that guns bring a higher suicide rate. Buchanan said those bent on committing suicide will find another means besides a gun.

Bump stocks and waiting periods for gun ownership were topics brought up by others. Buchanan said she can support the ban on bump stocks. President Trump banned them back in December. The firearm attachment allows semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns. She doesn’t believe in extended waiting periods for those purchasing guns.

Jonah Bostrom and Judson Lindley are the chairs for the Young Americans for Freedom.

The two students traveled to California this past summer as they prepared to get the MHS chapter off the ground. That’s where they met Buchanan.

Bostrom, 18, said there are 60 members of the club, some of whom aren’t yet able to vote. The focus is to expose members to various viewpoints so they can make up their own minds about issues.

“We need to hear someone else’s point of view,” he said. “We shouldn’t just believe something because a friend does or says we should.”

Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.

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