Col­lege stu­dents or­ga­nize to prac­tice 2nd Amend­ment rights

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Alison Hoover

Col­lege stu­dents have or­ga­nized clubs on dozens of cam­puses to de­fend their Sec­ond Amend­ment rights — and to have fun with guns.

“We go to the gun range be­cause it’s fun and ed­u­ca­tional,” said Michaela LeBlanc, a se­nior at Smith Col­lege in Northamp­ton, Mass. Miss LeBlanc trav­els to the nearby Smith & Wes­son Shoot­ing Sports Cen­ter with friends from the Smith Col­lege Repub­li­cans. This fall, they will seek recog­ni­tion from the col­lege as an of­fi­cial club.

At the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dax Dix­son founded the Tar Heel Ri­fle and Pis­tol Club. He said he thought fel­low stu­dents would ben­e­fit from shoot­ing, a skill he started learn­ing be­fore el­e­men­tary school. The club spon­sors lec­tures on Sec­ond Amend­ment rights and gun safety and trav­els to ranges to al­low mem­bers to prac­tice shoot­ing dis­ci­plines.

Mr. Dix­son said the univer­sity pro­vides fund­ing for speak­ers and shoot­ing sup­plies on the con­di­tion that club mem­bers use all am­mu­ni­tion on the same day they pur­chase it.

The con­ser­va­tive Lead­er­ship In­sti­tute, based in Ar­ling­ton, is among the out­side or­ga­ni­za­tions help­ing stu­dents start cam­pus gun clubs.

The in­sti­tute formed its Cam­pus Lead­er­ship Pro­gram in 1997 “to as­sist con­ser­va­tive stu­dents in the form­ing of in­de­pen­dent groups on their own cam­puses,” said Mor­ton Black­well, founder and pres­i­dent of the in­sti­tute. “In many cases, the left has suc­ceeded in mak­ing cam­puses left-wing in­doc­tri­na­tion cen­ters.”

Field rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Cam­pus Lead­er­ship Pro­gram help stu­dents “choose what the fo­cus of their ac­tiv­i­ties is go­ing to be,” he said, and then work with them to de­velop the lead­er­ship skills they need to main­tain their or­ga­ni­za­tion.

He said about 45 of the 738 ac­tive groups with which the pro­gram works are ded­i­cated to Sec­ond Amend­ment is­sues.

To re­cruit field rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Gun Own­ers of Amer­ica spon­sored an ad that be­gan, “Do you know some­one who is pro-gun, who likes work­ing with col­legeage kids, and who is in need of a full-time job in the fall?”

Sec­ond Amend­ment Sis­ters Inc. fo­cuses on teach­ing women to shoot but also sup­ports col­lege gun clubs.

“Guns have been so de­mo­nized” to col­lege stu­dents, said Mari Thompson, pres­i­dent and founder of Sec­ond Amend­ment Sis­ters. “We want to make sure that [stu­dents] know what the facts are, so they will carry on when we’re gone.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion is look­ing for cam­puses with enough in­ter­est in form­ing stu­dent groups.

Stu­dents for the Sec­ond Amend­ment be­gan at St. Mary’s Univer­sity in San An­to­nio. Da­maso Tor­res said he and co­founder Ryan Bragg “wanted to do skeet and trap shoots for stu­dents twice per year.”

The group’s Col­le­giate Firearms In­struc­tor Pro­gram trains col­lege stu­dents to be­come in­struc­tors cer­ti­fied by the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion. Through close ties with the firearms in­dus­try and prod­uct do­na­tion, Stu­dents for the Sec­ond Amend­ment of­fers in­struc­tion at a heav­ily dis­counted price. In the past aca­demic year, the group trained “4,100 kids in and around South Texas.” It also has three cer­ti­fied NRA coun­selors who are qual­i­fied to train po­ten­tial in­struc­tors.

Mr. Tor­res said Stu­dents for the Sec­ond Amend­ment has es­tab­lished a group at ev­ery cam­pus where it has made the ef­fort and ex­pe­ri­enced lit­tle re­sis­tance from school ad­min­is­tra­tors. “There are a lot of stu­dents that think the way we do,” he said.

He said cam­pus chap­ters let stu­dents re­al­ize they are not alone in their views and give them sup­port to speak up in class to de­fend the Sec­ond Amend­ment.

The group is funded mainly through an in­de­pen­dent ef­fort. Mr. Tor­res cred­its an in­ter­est group on the so­cial net­work MyS­pace.com for at­tract­ing many of the 2,000 mem­bers.

“We re­spect the right of young peo­ple to dis­cuss this is­sue,” said Peter Hamm, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for the Brady Cam­paign to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence. “The more peo­ple study it, the more likely we are to curb gun vi­o­lence in this coun­try, and that in­volves new laws.”

Mr. Hamm has told Cy­ber­cast News Ser­vice (www.cnsnews.com) that col­lege gun groups are “ab­so­lutely not a prob­lem,” and that it is now “much more likely that young peo­ple who think we need stronger gun laws in this coun­try are likely to make sure their voices are heard, too.”

He did not cite any ex­am­ples of cam­pus groups in fa­vor of stricter gun laws.

Stu­dents of­ten have called for gun con­trol, es­pe­cially in re­sponse to events such as the 1999 mas­sacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., but those fa­vor­ing gun rights have be­come in­creas­ingly ac­tive.

Miss LeBlanc said the gun club at Smith “will be a great tool to ed­u­cate stu­dents about the Sec­ond Amend­ment” and it will help “take away the stigma” about firearms.

Joe Oliva/The Wash­ing­ton Times

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