By JESSIE WHITMER
On February 14th, 2018, the UMW Firearms club decorated the spirit rock in order to promote their “Conceal Carry and Personal Safety Course.” Hours later that day, a shooter walked into a Florida high school and killed 17 victims. Due to this coincidence, some UMW students decided to destroy the work of the UMW Firearms club on the rock and cover it with the words “18 school shootings in 2018” and crossed out the UMW Firearms Club name. The painting of “18 school shootings” was supposed to illustrate anti-gun use and the danger of guns. It is unknown who did this, and if the vandalization was from a club or organization or just a group of students.
UMW is supposed to be welcoming to all students and this action is very heartbreaking. Stated on our UMW website, “The Principles that Guide Us: We strive to create a climate of genuine acceptance and will promote the values of diversity and inclusiveness. These values strengthen our community and are essential to our academic mission and institutional excellence. We value diversity in all forms— including diversity of age, culture, disability, economic background, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, marital status, national origin, opinion, political affiliation, race, religious background, sexual orientation and veteran status.” Yet our students did not follow these values when they covered up an ad for a UMW club event. Again, nothing was posted on the rock by the UMW Firearms Club targeting anyone or anything; they simply wanted to advertise their event intending to share the importance of gun safety.
According to a post by president Natalie Johns on the club’s Facebook page, “The Firearms club of UMW is a UMW Funded and NRA Collegiate Coalition affiliated group focused on firearm and related safety training and education, protection of the 2nd Amendment, increasing recreational firearm sport participation, and more.”
The UMW Firearms Club did not deserve to have their work vandalized just because it happened to be displayed on the same day as the shooting. The artwork had no relation to the shooting, especially since the rock was decorated hours before before the Florida shooting. Furthermore, it was a public safety course to teach students how to safely handle a gun, not an event intended to be dangerous or offensive. The UMW Firearms Club did not deserve the threats and the rude messages that they were receiving, and UMW students should learn to respect all students. I was very disappointed in the actions of my fellow students and the hate I saw all over social media. Students were getting into fights, making very rude and disrespectful comments to each other, and displaying hate to one another. Even though all of this was happening, the UMW Firearms Club consistently stayed respectful to all the hate coming their direction. They should be commended for being very respectful this whole time and trying to broadcast gun safety.
The Firearms Club of UMW currently meets every Thursday. The club offers opportunities for students to learn about gun safety and help educate others. The president, Natalie Johns, is very respectful, kind, and enthusiastic, and I know she would be willing to have anyone she can come to her events. Even with all the hatred that has come her way, she has stayed positive and level-headed which shows how great of a President she is for the UMW Firearms Club.
The UMW student body as a whole needs to respect other clubs and learn to support each other. We are stronger together. We do not need hate on our campus, especially against each other.