Guns OK, now how about free speech?
July 2, 2010
'Colleges should be welcoming debate' on role of firearms in society
The U.S. Supreme Court has now ruled that Americans have a constitutional right to own firearms - and now one group is asking, what about students' right to free speech about guns?
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a group that battles college speech restrictions nationwide, is drawing attention to widespread college censorship of student speech concerning guns.
"In the wake of Monday's Supreme Court decision in McDonald v. Chicago, debate about the Second Amendment and gun rights is sure to be hotter than ever," said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "Meanwhile, on too many college campuses, students have been prevented from and punished for attempting to form groups to advocate for gun rights, protesting campus restrictions on concealed carry or even simply telling gun-related jokes."
He added, "[A]n informed populace is essential to our democracy, and colleges and universities should be welcoming a debate on the role of guns in our society, not stifling it."
FIRE has launched its first film in a new series focusing on how U.S. colleges and universities are preventing students and faculty members from speaking out on the weightiest political issues of the day. The group plans to continue its series with expert interviews and "hard-hitting investigations into the stifling of campus discussions about our society's most contentious issues."
The first video can be seen below:
The video was filmed on location at campuses in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Texas and features interviews with students from colleges where administrators have been accused of attempting to stifle debate over licensed concealed carry of firearms by students. FIRE notes that administrators at the colleges declined to be interviewed for the film.
FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley said the new series seeks to shed light on an issue that has become a serious national problem.
"Seeing is believing, and film is key to showing the public both that censorship on campus is real and that it has real costs," Shibley said. "Our new video initiative will expose new audiences to some of the worst abuses of free speech on campus. Raising awareness of these abuses will help FIRE in our fight to defend debate and dissent on campus."
FIRE has published a list of cases in which college students have been punished or threatened for wearing empty holsters, forming gun-rights groups, posting flyers, sending e-mails and even giving a presentation for speech class on concealed weapons.
The FIRE website says the group takes no position on the issue of concealed carry on campus, but "strongly believes that students should be free to advocate any side of the debate."
WND reported in April when college students across America strapped on empty gun holsters to protest laws and policies prohibiting licensed concealed carry on college campuses.
The week-long protests were sponsored by Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, or SCCC, a grass-roots organization of more than 44,000 college students, faculty members and citizens who support the right to self-defense on campus. The group has members in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
According to the group, colleges have not only discriminated against concealed carry permit holders, they often censor students who disagree by ignoring or attempting to stop students from discussing the issue of concealed carry.
SCCC member Christine Brashier reported being banned from handing out fliers about the group by a Pennsylvania college that purportedly told her, "You may want to discuss this topic but the college does not, and you cannot make us."
During the spring 2009 semester, Texas' Tarrant County College tried to stop students from wearing empty holsters on campus until a federal judge ruled that the ban violated the First Amendment.
FAIR's new video features an interview with Robert Comer, chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas at Lone Star College, Tomball, who was banned from distributing satirical flyers with "Top 10 gun safety tips" including, "If your gun misfires, never look down the barrel to inspect it."
Administrators purportedly told Comer the flyers were inappropriate, confiscated them and threatened to disband his group or put it on probation for a year.
In the video, Comer said Americans must safeguard their rights to free speech and gun ownership.
"That's one of the most important rights that we have as Americans," he said. "If we don't treasure it, if we don't hold it close to our heart, then we're done. We cease to be the free country that we were."