Editorial: UConn Concealed Carry Protest is Ill-advised, Ineffective

The following editorial is republished in its entirety with the permission of dailycampus.com. I’ve spoken with the publication’s Editor-in-Chief Christopher Duray. He says the piece is more about the style of the protest than the validity of its claims. His comments are at the end of this op-ed.

This week, the UConn Pistol and Rifle Club will be wearing empty holsters around campus to protest a ban on carrying concealed weapons at universities. It’s a sensationalistic move that will ultimately add very little to the gun control debate.

For a college student to carry a gun is so out of character that it comes across as absurd. There’s an irony in the clashing perception between the student stereotyped as either hedonistic or studious and the gun, which is dangerous.

How is anyone supposed to take a conversation with one of these protestors [sic] seriously when they’re wearing something so out of place? They may as well be in chicken costumes.

Perhaps the lack of association with guns and students is one of the problems the club has to overcome. But it’s going to be difficult to truly accept an important and reasonable point from someone dressed so awkwardly.

The only time a holster won’t be met with laughs or dismissal is if a demonstrator confronts a person who was, for whatever reason, deeply affected either emotionally or practically by a school shooting. And dealing with a person reeling from the high emotions that come from being reminded of that level of trauma isn’t the way to hold an honest debate either.

What are the protestors ultimately trying to show? Exactly how many people would be armed if state provisions were to be altered? If the demonstrators actually are able to communicate that idea effectively, the violence and aggression associated with guns might prove to be far more intimidating than reassuring. A successful protest would therefore be entirely counter-productive.

Speaking of efficacy, the provisions that keep guns off UConn’s campus are state statutes and not university policies. If the club is actually interested in making practical changes to the rules, why aren’t they protesting in Hartford where a change can actually be made?

No matter how you react to the protest, it’s a cheap stunt. In a very complex conversation with legitimate concerns on both sides, relying on drastic imagery without context is intellectually lazy – no matter what issue is being discussed.

The students of this university aren’t so far gone that they won’t respond to thoughtfulness and tact. But instead, this protest is designed only to engage a person’s emotions, and because of that, thoughtless knee-jerk emotions are the only thing they’ll receive.

-ends-

When I asked Christopher Duray whether he believes students and/or teachers should be able to carry [licensed] firearms on campus, the Editor-in-Chief continued the “ill-advised” theme. “Considering the alcohol and drug use at UConn, I believe guns would cause more problems than they would solve.”

What of the contention that an armed student or teacher could have stopped spree killings at Columbine or Virgina Tech? “In general, I think you have a better chance with prevention than reaction,” Duray told TTAG. “An armed student could have caused more confusion for the police.”

Although Duray says the 2009 stabbing of football player Jasper Howrd at the UConn campus was an isolated incident, he understands the protesters’ desire to carry a gun for self-protection. “It’s a good argument,” he says. “But I don’t agree.”

comments

  1. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Robert, does Connecticut have "shall issue" concealed carry? Because if not I would have to agree with the editorial. The only time the "empty holster" protest makes sense is if it can be said that, but for University policies, these students could be legally armed (and even in that case I have to agree with the editorial writer that such an assertion is likely to cause more consternation among the gun-neutral, not less.)

  2. avatar Robert Farago says:

    Yes and no. Wikipedia:

    In Connecticut, firearms owners must first apply for a weapons carry permit through the local police department, which is May-Issue or Shall-Issue depending on the town (permits are generally easier to obtain in rural areas than in urban areas).

    If the permit application is denied by the local police department, the possessor may appeal the denial to the Department of Public Safety Special Licensing and Firearms Unit (SLFU), which must issue a weapons carry permit if the applicant meets none of the criteria that would disqualify him or her from holding such permit.

  3. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Robert the other issue would be whether Connecticut has a "preemption" statute, IOW, can a city, town or county outlaw concealed carry even for a person who has a state-issued permit?

  4. avatar Donal says:

    I think the empty holster protest is a clever idea – that may backfire. If all those guys with empty holsters are well-regarded on campus, it certainly sends a powerful message about gun ownership. If, they aren't all that well-regarded, however, the message may be quite different.

  5. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Honestly, though, I think it's a futile protest. Students simply don't have much power at colleges or universities. For one thing, they're transient – for the vast, vast majority, it's four years and then out (I don't know what percentage of students pursues a graduate degree but I don't think it's that high and in any case, those who pursue grad degrees are also more likely to be on the anti-gun side than on the pro gun side.)

    Combine this with the fact that the students, themselves, don't have much money with which to influence the politically chosen university governing boards, and the result is that "what the students want" is not a huge concern to those who make the rules at colleges and universities.

    And like Donal said, it could easily backfire – if the students wearing holsters are regarded by other students as obnoxious, arrogant or just stupid, the non-protesting students will likely be grateful that the holsters are empty and terrified at the thought that they might one day be filled.

    1. avatar Donal says:

      That's absolutely true. My wife was a part-time instructor at a major land grant university. She was so highly regarded by her students that none of them wanted to take classes from the department head, who was a martinet to boot. When the department head fired her, her students organized a demonstration outside the president's office. Net result – nada.

      When I was in college, we quietly demonstrated in front of the administration building to save our department head. They waited until summer break, then fired him.

  6. avatar Robert Fure says:

    As someone who was still in college just 4 years ago, I can say that someone on campus is always protesting something. Whether it's fair or free trade, marriage rights, living wage rights, or whatever, there is never any backlash against them. Yet, with guns, there is.

    Sure, it's a gigantic hill to climb, but aren't all instances of prejudice hard to climb? When people first started protesting for the rights of blacks to go to the same schools, or to vote, or when women marched for their own right to suffrage, or any other march – were those not seemingly insurmountable odds?

    To dismiss this protest as worthless is almost un-American. The mindset that "it's hard to change so lets not take the first step" is a terrible one to have.

    The Op-Ed loses me immediately when the writer states "For a college student to carry a gun is so out of character that it comes across as absurd." This shows a prejudicial view of guns and is even mildly offensive. I have a college degree and am avid about guns. How is that absurd? How can the author categorize all college students in such a way? And after all, there was a point in history not too long ago that saying a black man going to college was so out of character it was absurd.

    There is no reason why a law abiding citizen can't exercise his rights where he pleases. Laws that say students can't have guns on campus have stopped zero school shootings. However, armed students have stopped at least 2 school shootings. In Israel at the Mercaz Harav seminary and at the Appalachian School of Law. The actions of students lead to no accidental injuries or damage, either.

    Personally, I don't see how the protest is a cheap stunt. Various student groups across the US have tried to have this conversation and are ignored. Sometimes you've got to do something to attention. Whether you refuse to get out of your bus seat, sit down in a restaurant and don't leave, or wear an empty holster to class.

    1. avatar Donal says:

      How would anyone know for sure that laws banning guns have not stopped shootings? After all it isn't likely anyone would own up to a failure like that: "I was gonna shoot all my classmates, but I couldn't get my hands on a gun. Then Sherry agreed to go out with me and I sorta forgot about the mass killing and junk."

      1. avatar Robert Fure says:

        There are no statistics to back up my claim, but schools are no gun-zones and the shootings still happen. My argument is focused solely on carrying guns on campus, not on the general availability of gun.

        I don't think anyone considering murder ever decided against it because of a gun law. It's just an extension of the "Criminals don't obey laws" argument.

        Assuming the person can get a gun and wants to shoot a school, the only thing a "Gun Free Zone" assures is that there are pretty good odds he's the only one with a gun there.

        1. avatar Donal says:

          Criminals don't obey laws by definition, but that doesn't mean laws have no effect on a given person's behavior. There are all sorts of nasty things that have flashed into my mind when I was really angry (mostly at landlords who kept my security deposit), but I always (so far) think better of it, and law enforcement has something to do with that. I suspect that many people have tried to find a gun with blood in their eyes, only to cool off as the reality of what they were thinking sets in. We only hear about the ones that followed through.

        2. avatar Robert Fure says:

          True. We all get mad. But we're not talking about just anyone in this instance. We're already talking about people who have met the requirements of a CCW license. Each state is slightly different, though for the most part you can't ever be a felon or convicted of a violent crime. CCW holders are law abiding citizens. I've posted below the requirements for a CCW in Connecticut.

          As a CCW holder, I can say I've never been mad enough to kill someone, despite being plenty mad. In America, you're innocent until proven guilty, so there isn't a good reason to deny innocent people who follow the law their rights. (speaking fairly generally here, not about schools who do have a lot of leeway in creating their own rules)

          1. Is twenty-one years of age;

          2. Is a legal resident of the United States;

          3. Has a residence or business in the jurisdiction in which they are applying;

          4. Intends to use the handgun for only lawful purposes;

          5. Is a "suitable person" to receive a permit;

          6. Has successfully completed an approved handgun safety course;

          7. Has not been convicted of a felony or a violation of;

          a. Criminal possession of a narcotic substance;

          b. Criminally negligent homicide;

          c. Assault in the third degree;

          d. Reckless endangerment in the firstdegree;

          e. Unlawful restraint in the second degree;

          f. Riot in the first degree;

          g. Stalking in the second degree;

          8. Has not been convicted as a delinquent for the commission of a serious juvenile offense;

          9. Has not been discharged from custody within the preceding twenty years after having been found not guilty of a crime by reason of mental disease or defect;

          10. Is not subject to a restraining or protective order issued by a court in a case involving the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against another person;

          11. Is not subject to a firearms seizure order issued for posing a risk of personal injury to self or others after a hearing; or

          12. Is not prohibited from possessing a firearm for having been adjudicated as a mentally incompetent under federal law.

        3. avatar Donal says:

          Interesting non sequitur, but irrelevant because you don’t need a CCW to get a gun and no one claimed that the CCW law by itself stopped crime.

  7. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Sure, it’s a gigantic hill to climb, but aren’t all instances of prejudice hard to climb? When people first started protesting for the rights of blacks to go to the same schools, or to vote, or when women marched for their own right to suffrage, or any other march – were those not seemingly insurmountable odds?

    That's a seriously apples-and-oranges comparison. First of all, most states restrict CCW permits to those over the age of 21 (and you have to be 21 to buy a handgun from a federally licensed dealer.) That means that the majority of undergrads aren't even eligible to carry if the did want to. Which means they aren't likely to care nor are they likely to get worked up over extending a privilege to the over-21 students that they, themselves, don't have.

    Second, a wise general chooses his battles. I've never seen any polls to indicate what percentage of college students wants the no-concealed-carry rules to be relaxed or amended, but I would imagine that it's 10 percent or less. The rest of them are either OK with the weapons restrictions or are too busy partying and trying to hook up that they just don't care.

    There is no reason why a law abiding citizen can’t exercise his rights where he pleases.

    Well, if the law says he can't carry a weapon onto a college campus, or into a bar, or into a courtroom, or into a federal building, then anybody who does so is no longer a "law abiding citizen", is he?

    Trying to make this into a "civil rights" issue is laughable, and makes the protesters look like fools. Nobody's civil rights are being violated here (there's no constitutional right to carry a gun any time you feel like it) and last time I checked, college attendance was not mandatory which means those students who just don't feel safe unless they're packing heat can get their education online or go out into the working world – where they're likely to find that just because they want something doesn't mean they will get it.

    1. avatar Robert Fure says:

      I wasn't trying to make concealed carry a civil rights issue, I was just using that issue to draw parallels to the struggle. If the issue is important to these students, why shouldn't they raise the issue?

      My point, which probably got a little cloudy the more I wrote, was that college students (in my experience) protest a lot of things. A lot I don't agree with, some I do.

      But if a bunch of students protest on campus against the Iraq War, that won't stop the Iraq War, yet few people criticize them. If that group demands Fair Trade coffee in cafeteria, no one ridicules them or calls them names.

      CCW is just another issue and I don't feel like these kids should be put under more scrutiny than any other group of kids.

      You're right about most college kids not caring. I went to school in Washington DC, a dangerous place, but didn't think about CCW on campus – though I did have a PA CCW license and wished I could have my gun on campus, though in my dorm and later house, for safety while not in class. That said, I also didn't care about Fair Trade Coffee and Living Wages, but wasn't bothered by the kids protesting for it.

  8. avatar Clarence says:

    A great example of this exact same debate can actually be found on YouTube believe it or not. Texas A&M was facing this exact same issue. I would encourage those on both sides of the issue to watch the video on youtube, but to also read into what has been happening since. The following is the youtube link mentioned earlier:

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