By HANNAH GALEONE
The University of Mary Washington has over 150 different clubs and organizations, adding new ones each year. However this school year the university has seen interest from some students on campus, to create a firearms club. The idea for the club however, has incited debate among students. There are students who are for and others who are against the club, the idea was introduced over the summer.
The club idea was proposed to the UMW community at the end of June 2017 by way of a Facebook post on the anonymous page, “Overheard at Mary Wash.” What followed was a social media explosion.
In the span of less than two weeks, the comments thread had gone into the double digits with numerous responses from current students as well as alumni. Although there were several responses in favor of the founding of the club, the majority of reactions were negative and far surpassed those that were positive.
Some students voiced concerns towards this proposed club. Others were completely supportive. A majority of the students who had positive feedback about the proposed club felt that it should be based around firearm safety and education rather than the ability to enjoy the use of guns.
“If [the club] was about educating people regarding safety then I’d certainly be behind it,” read a comment by one student in the Facebook postings.
Students feel that learning about gun safety is important.
“I think a club that teaches [gun safety and education] and has group activities is a great idea,” said another student. “I think gun education is a necessary thing.”
Although many students voiced opinions that support the idea of a firearms club, many more who are against the idea spoke out too. Students commented relentlessly in opposition of the proposed National Rifle Association chapter or firearms club.
“This will definitely not fly at UMW,” said one student. “Sorry, I will fight against your club being allowed on campus.”
Some students feel that the adverse reactions to the club represent the suppression of conservative beliefs.
“[UMW] is an extremely liberal minded campus and [the club] will only lead to trouble and controversy among the students,” read another comment. Many students were apprehensive about having a club on campus that advocated gun use and were uncomfortable with UMW being affiliated with the club.
When a student wishes to start a club on campus, there is a formal protocol that he or she must follow. The student who wishes to start a club must meet with members of Student Activities and Engagement, hold a preliminary interest meeting and create a club constitution.
The constitution establishes a structure for the potential organization. Following these steps, the student must then present the preliminary constitution to the chair of the Inter Club Association and submit a faculty or staff advisor, a list of prospective members, as well as a list of proposed programs. In the case of the firearms club, all the aforementioned steps have been completed and all requirements have been met.
If UMW was to allow an NRA chapter or a firearms club on campus, the institution would not stand alone. Across the nation, there are many universities and colleges that have both firearms clubs and shooting teams that compete at the collegiate level. Noteworthy educational institutions with firearms clubs or teams are, but not limited to, George Mason University, Virginia Tech University, Yale University and Clemson University.
The shooting teams range from NCAA and varsity ranked athletics to club level sports. Among the types of disciplines in which these universities compete are air rifle, indoor and outdoor ranges, pistol teams and shot gun teams.
The approval of a firearms club at UMW would in no way alter the rules and regulations of safety on campus. The University’s student handbook has clear and strict rules about guns on campus.
“Firearms, projectile firing devices, and other weapons, including but not limited to air rifles and pellet guns,” are listed in the handbook as items that are prohibited on campus. The student handbook also states that “No student shall keep, use, possess, display, or carry any rifle, shotgun, handgun, airsoft gun on any property or in any building owned or operated by the University.” The approval and creation of a firearms club would be for safe, supervised activities, and educational purposes.