By RILEY DOHERTY
According to the Office of Student Conduct and Responsibilities’ Weapons and Projectiles page, “weapons [are categorized as]… any pistol, revolver, or other weapon designed or intended to propel a missile of any kind;” Going further by saying “Possession or carrying of any weapon by any person, except a police officer, is prohibited on University property.” These rules were put in place to lower the possibility of weapon-related violence against UMW students and faculty, however there is a club on campus whose existence seems strange given these rules- the UMW Firearms Club.
The UMW Firearms Club, as described on their Orgsync page, “focuses on coordinating discussions on topics involving firearms, providing firearms training and safety seminars, and increasing public knowledge through outreach programs.” One such safety seminar is a “Personal Safety Strategies course” where any UMW student or faculty member can apply for a concealed carry permit.
According to the Orgsync page, the strategies course also includes: firearm familiarity, safe handling, loading/unloading–and most concerning of all–the fundamentals of shooting. The Firearms Club also hosts “2A Day”, the “2A” stands for 2nd amendment, advertised as “a 2 hour training seminar for college students interested in learning more about the NRA, the 2nd Amendment, gun rights, the gun control debate and more!”
Unsurprisingly, the club has strong ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA), an organization known for their love of guns and gun freedoms, as well as their hatred of Democrats for proposing stricter gun laws. They are also infamous for having a strong “Us vs. Them” mentality, with advertisements and speakers that are quick to villainize anyone with a different ideology than them.
The NRA helps the club host its “2A Day” by providing prizes as well as speakers. As a reward for staying for the whole session, those who attend are given a free 1-year membership to the NRA.
The UMW Firearms Club, especially with their partnership with the NRA, can be seen as a threat to campus safety. The club’s pro-gun atmosphere and values could be seen as a invitation for students to bring guns on campus which, in a best case scenario could lead to the discomfort of students, and in a worst case scenario, a police confrontation.
Secondly, given the Firearms Club’s relationship to the NRA and the NRA’s extreme views on most political issues, it could foster a hostile environment around the gun control debate, as well as encourage violence against those of differing opinions on campus.
Natalie Johns, the club’s president, “respectfully declined” to answer questions for this article. The club’s advisor, Dr. Janet Asper also said she was unavailable to comment on the issues presented.
In the club’s defense, they do not use firearms or other weapons of any kind during their meetings and training sessions, at least on campus. The club is allowed to hold any kind of meeting they want due to the first, and obviously, second amendment. The final line of defense for any club on campus, including the UMW Firearms Club, is the Office of Diversity and Inclusion which is “committed to creating a community that is diverse, inclusive and affirming to all individuals.” The office’s mission reads that they “will work to ensure an academically and socially engaged environment where all faculty, staff, and students feel supported.” But where is the line drawn between the safety of the campus and the support of student diversity?