Gun control event debates different experiences, viewpoints

Experts Juan Pacheco and Robert Farago debate the issue of gun control.

When it comes to discussing gun control, you can expect a few loaded questions.

University of Tennessee students experienced a night of firearms education and debate on Wednesday as experts Juan Pacheco and Robert Farago discussed the issue of gun control in the Cox Auditorium of the Alumni Memorial Building. Pacheco, a former gang member and gun control advocate, exchanged ideas with Farago, a National Rifle Association member and firearms blogger, during the Issues Committee organized event.

“I’m not okay with our rights being taken away, but I’m also not ok with losing young people,” said Pacheco, drawing attention to the gun violence that frequently ravages underprivileged youth in America.

Admitting that he was “not a lawyer,” Pacheco cited statistics that related high levels of gun ownership to increased crime, murder and domestic abuse instances across the country in an effort to convey his point.

For Farago, the issue of gun violence was not one to pin on lawful gun owners. Despite a past gun-related suicide of a close friend, Farago chose to never “’blame his (friend’s) father for legally owning a firearm, nor did I blame the tool that my friend chose to end his own life.”

Robert argued that if Americans could “transform the debate (of gun control) away from the tool” and towards the underlying issues behind violence, the problem of gun violence could easily be resolved.

Meg Landon, a sophomore in neuroscience and secretary of the Issues Committee, sees the event as an opportunity for students to experience two very differing viewpoints in a respectful fashion.

“We see a lot of gun related violence, and I think people on both sides of the argument would agree that this violence is a problem,” Landon said. “They have different solutions in mind, so it is important to open a civil dialogue in order to come to the best solution.”

For more information on Issues Committee events, click here.

Edited by Jessica Carr

Professor is ‘changing the world with polymer chemistry’

Dr. Jimmy Mays explains the applications of thermoplastic elastomers during an installment of the UT Science Forum
Dr. Jimmy Mays explains the applications of thermoplastic elastomers during an installment of the UT Science Forum

Dr. Jimmy Mays,  a Professor of Chemistry and ORNL Distinguished Scientist,  is making big changes in the world of polymers. He is stretching, quite literally, the applications of polymers in industry, science and society.

Friday, at the first installment of the UT Science Forum, Mays explained the importance of polymers and how he plans to use them to improve certain aspects of everyday life.

Mays said “we really, truly live in the age of polymers. If you just look around this room-the carpet on the floor, the table in front of you, the clothes you’re wearing, most of this is polymer, if not all of it.”

By altering the composition of polymers, Mays is able to produce what he calls “super polymers.” These polymers will be able to stretch further and withstand more force before breaking, essentially allowing for the production of better products.

His work has drawn international attention and he recently received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation to develop cheaper, user-friendlier condoms to prevent the spread of disease and limit pregnancies.

When he heard the call from the Gates Foundation to develop a new generation of condoms he was intrigued. From the beginning, Mays has been interested in the production of condoms because it is a big market.

With this technology he envisions other products like extra-thin surgical gloves.

“If you can make a surgical glove thinner, what is that worth in the operating room?” Mays asked, insinuating the prospect of more successful operations with thinner gloves.

Mays is currently using super polymers to develop water filtration systems. They may be used to meet growing demand for clean waters supplies. Companies have recently shown interest in using the technology for less invasive hernia repair. He envisions several applications in the energy industry, as well, including the production of lighter car batteries.

When asked about the grant from the Gates Foundation, Mays answered, “week after next I’ll be out at the Gates Foundation in Seattle working with them on this, and who knows where that will go?”


Edited by Nichole Stevens 

Downtown street performer gets ordinance involving masks amended

An illusionist and costume designer is still able to perform after his meeting with the City Council of Knoxville about an ordinance that bans wearing masks in public.

Justin Webb, street performer, has performed in Market Square for around three months. He dresses up as spiderman and ironman. Webb claims he never had any problems with the police until recently when KPD Officer S. Frazier issued a citation for wearing a mask. The citation has no detail other than the ordinance number, City Code 19-62, and the words “Mask (Spiderman).”

“It was a $115 ticket, and I was not just going to pay it,” Webb said.

The ordinance basically states, no mask or other devices can be worn on public or private property.

“The ordinance is far too ambiguous. The way it’s written, it would apply to anyone. It could be medical gear, religious head dresses, even Vol fans with their faces painted orange. I just want my freedom of expression,” says Webb.

Vague laws give police discretion, making citizen’s confused on what the laws actually are. This meeting gave a better understanding of what people can and can’t do.

As Webb approached the stand he gave his thanks to the City Council members.

“It’s very rewarding and hopeful to see that people are willing to work for the common good for the small people. As small as we performers may be. You have my deepest gratitude whether it is opposed or approved. I appreciate it.”

The City Council approved for the ordinance to be removed. The law has been amended. He is now allowed to perform in full costume. He has to remove mask and show identification when asked.

“I think tonight showed, when you show them the proper respect, they will show it back. It is unconstitutionally applied. I am more than grateful,” Webb expressed.

For more information visit,


Justin Webb dressed as Ironman.

City Council members during the decision of approval or denial of the ordinance.







Commissioners propose amendment to Marketplace Fairness Act

The recent Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 has raised some concerns among Knox County commissioners.

Chris Caldwell, the county finance director, reported Monday afternoon at the Knox County Commission Work Session meeting. He presented the facts about sales tax for online purchases, and listed pros and cons of the Fairness Act.

One pro, as stated by Caldwell, is that it would level the playing field for the brick and mortar businesses in the city of Knoxville. However, on the other end, it would force businesses to have to keep up with the state and local tax rates. It would potentially be devastating for small online companies and out-of-state buyers.

“This is ultimately a decision of congress,” he reports. “Knox County would definitely benefit.” Knox County would see benefits from an increase in revenue.

This case is one that has become controversial. It has Republicans disagreeing with Republicans and Democrats disagreeing with Democrats. Discussion among the county commissioners broke out, and a proposal came up for an amendment to the Act. Citizens already pay enough, so they shouldn’t have to have another tax burden. A revenue mutual was suggested to ensure fairness amongst online shoppers. With a revenue mutual, protection would be provided for the brick and mortar companies, and sales tax would be based on state.

According to 2nd district commissioner Amy Broyles, these online taxes are, “Tax[es] people are supposed to be paying, and they’re not.”

The motion to pass this amendment ultimately failed to pass, and commissioners went back to the original motion. The point of the bill is that citizens shopping on sites such as Amazon and Ebay need to pay their portion of the taxes.

An amendment to pick a flat rate for all states was proposed and passed almost unanimously among the commissioners.

Learn more about the Marketplace Fairness act by visiting: