By RICHARD ABEL
The University of Mary Washington has a long-standing tradition of fostering open-mindedness amongst its student body, and maintaining the same outlook, when it comes to administration. Over the summer, UMW student Natalie Johns felt inclined to gather students who shared her interest in firearms and firearm safety by creating a club of the same focus. I interviewed Natalie about the developments of the club since its embryonic stage in August.
According to Natalie, the club’s main focus is education and firearm safety knowledge. “We are first and foremost focused on education, because people tend to fear what they don’t know. That’s why we’re hoping to have a lot of educational events in the future, like safety classes, events in support of the Second Amendment, and trivia contests.”
Natalie also explained process of becoming an officially recognized club. “It was a multi-step process, but it was worth it. Basically, I just had to gather enough students and begin talking to the SAE about becoming recognized. Then, I went before the committee and had to explain what the club was about and prove that there was enough interest in the club to continue it after I graduate. The committee was very helpful and willing to work with me, and I didn’t feel any biases, or anything of that nature.” The administration’s cooperation in chartering the club without any noticeable bias is reassuring of the climate of free association at Mary Washington.
The club had its first field trip last month, during which students gathered at the range at NRA national headquarters. There, they heard from speakers on the focus of the NRA, as well as firearm and range safety. The group then got the opportunity to put their knowledge to use by firing on the range with four of the NRA’s best trainers in a safe, educational environment.
Field trip chaperone and UMW Police Sergeant Joe Gagliardi offered a perhaps little known fact: “One of the very first clubs at Mary Washington was a rifle club. I once saw an old picture in one of the buildings on campus of a group of female students with their rifles, posing for a club photo.”
It seems that UMW’s tradition of freedom of association traces all the way back to the beginning days of the college, and the UMW Firearms club is a recent addition to the many clubs that represent students’ interests.
Young Americans for Liberty also has a long standing tradition of supporting the U.S. Constitution. YAL’s “Your Life, Your Right” campaign encourages the support of individuals’ right to protect themselves by any means they deem fit. The focus of the event realizes that “Nothing causes more sadness than when another individual becomes the victim of a violent assault. Most people turn to big government solutions to curb violent crime because they don’t know the real effects of these policies.”
Activism focused on supporting the second Amendment – like what YAL and the UMW Firearms Club are doing – brings clubs together in support of a common cause, and allows students to voice their interests and values in a conversational way.
The Firearms club plans to continue educating students who feel inclined to an academic pursuit of firearms and firearm safety.