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Students for Concealed Carry is a student-run, national, non-partisan organization which advocates for legal concealed carry on college campuses in the United States as an effective means of self-defense.

DonateJoin Us on FacebookFind Us on TwitterCommon Arguments Against Campus Carry

 

SCC has one main policy objective: To promote and secure the rights of law abiding adults who 1) have a concealed carry permit to be able to carry 2) a concealed handgun while visiting a 3) college campus.

So naturally, we are asked from time to time why we don’t argue in favor of unlicensed carry, open carry, or k-12 carry.

The reason is two fold: we lack the expertise, and we lack the resources.

SCC was originally started in Texas. This goes a long way to answering the question: Texas has neither open handgun carry or unlicensed handgun carry. This start informed how the organization developed, as you would probably expect.

Perhaps you think Texas and other states should have open handgun carry or unlicensed handgun carry. Whether or not it you think it should, it doesn’t. Our founding members didn’t have the experience, and they chose not to express an opinion on something they didn’t have first hand experience with.

Our founders likewise were a few years into their college studies, and the college environment is indisputably different from the k-12 environment in a number of ways, not the least of which is that students don’t typically live on k-12 campuses. Whether you think those differences are material or not to the issue of firearms rights, it was not the environment our founding members were spending near 24/7 experiencing.

The objection appears: “How could you express an opinion on college carry since that was not something that at the time your founding members had experience with?”

The answer is that our founding members had experience with concealed carry outside the college environment, and had experience with the college environment. Our founders felt they could take these twin pools of knowledge and experience and form reasonable conclusions about how they would intertwine.  Perhaps even more to the point, they felt that there were no substantive differences that impacted firearms rights between the college environment and the city that lied just beyond the invisible boundary line.

The experience of hundreds of colleges that now allow concealed carry shows that they were right.

The objection appears: “If that is how you started, why didn’t you take on other issues as you expanded into other states?”

The answer is that our most relevant pool of environmental experience is still the college environment, so we still lack the cumulative personal experience to speak with authority on k-12 issues.  Also, our members are in the college environment, not in the k-12 environment. We do not have sufficient people on the ground inside the k-12 environment to affect any change from within even if we wanted to.  While unlicensed carry and open carry are growing they are still not as popular as concealed carry. Again, whether or not you think they should be is somewhat immaterial; it is not representative of our cumulative experience in an off-campus environment, and thus we do not feel we have the knowledge base to speak with authority as to how it would work in the on-campus environment.

Our lack of resources preclude us from expanding beyond the limits on our scope that we started with. We do not have the experience as noted above, which is itself a kind of resource. We also lack the time and money to expand. Everyone at SCC volunteers, and everyone is either busy with classes, work, or some combination. We are fighting a very established institution in the form of academia. We have our hands full as it is. We could theoretically spend money to gain some people who would have the expertise and time to work on other issues, but of course we don’t have the money to hire those kinds of professional resources. We are independent from organizations like the NRA, and our budget certainly shows for it.

There is also the risk of diluting our message. The more things we take on, the broader we become. We are not trying to be the NRA and trying to deal with everything related to firearms. We have a niche we understand and we feel we can address this niche better than the NRA, who for all their resources are equally burdened by dealing with all the issues they are trying to address at once. By staying where we are, we stay very narrow, but we also stay very focused.

Finally, if these issues are important to you, there are other organizations that already focus on these issues, and they do it better then we could at the moment. There is nothing precluding you from joining a couple different groups based on your interests, skill set, and available time commitments. We hope if you believe in SCC’s cause that SCC will be one of the groups you chose to spend some of your time with.

 

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TL;DR summary: In view of mistakes made in this video, a reminder to all that when advocating for Students for Concealed Carry and campus carry, be professional and polite at all times. For 1900+ words more on the subject, read on.

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With our annual empty holster protest about to commence, it is a good time to discuss best practices on being a good advocate.

When advocating for Students for Concealed Carry (or really any group / cause), there are certain best practices to be aware of. Certainly, different venues and different audiences call for different strategies and methods. When talking to supporters / preaching to the choir, we can take certain baseline assumptions of knowledge and opinion for granted. However, in more general audiences it is important to remember that not everyone is a supporter of either firearms rights generally or Students for Concealed Carry’s mission in particular. Some people are neutral, some people are opposed, and some people are hostile.

Our objective is not only to persuade in the moment, but to leave an overall good impression of ourselves as people and our cause. It therefore pays in the long term, if not always the short term, to be professional and polite.

This is of course critical when addressing policy makers or politicians who are in a position to either help or hurt our cause, but it is still important when talking to our fellow citizens. Our reputation in the community matters, and we need to always act in a way that supports a positive, long term reputation and image.

When in doubt, follow the golden rule. Be professional and polite.

With that in mind, I would like to analyse a counter-protest staged at a recent rally that was being held by CeaseFirePA.

Before I comment further, I want to make absolutely plain that in this post we are not saying anything in support of the policy positions of CeaseFirePA. CeaseFirePA is a gun control group who explicitly opposes campus carry, so it is clear they and SCC disagree 180 degrees as to policy.

I also want to make it clear that while the people involved in making the video appear to be affiliated with a PA gun rights group, it does not appear this counter-protest was sponsored by that organization. It would be improper to discuss that organization at all in the first place since this counter-protest was not sponsored or conducted by them.

This post is about rhetoric and politeness, not firearms policy.

Both sides made errors in conduct and rhetoric shown on the video, and we can learn from the errors of both sides as a valuable informational tool.

With that massive disclaimer out of the way, let us begin. Here is the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC6BDaxVurU

The video starts mid-way through events, so we don’t know what happened before hand. But since the person that shot the video also edited it (who I will refer to hereafter as the “pamphleteer” since he is passing out pamphlets) , we should cast any needed inferences about unseen events against him.

What we see is a reasonably large event already underway. The event is being hosted by CeaseFirePA (co-sponsored by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in American and Mayors Against Illegal Guns) . Later research indicates that this was held at Trinity Episcopal Church, Buckingham, PA; therefore, the event is on private property.

So we have a private event, by private actors, on private property, organized for a private purpose.  The pamphleteer is therefore off to a rocky start.

It is important to bear in mind that the pamphleteer has no first amendment rights in this context because there is no State actor. The first amendment (and the second amendment for that matter) protects people against the government, not private parties. This is one of the reasons that SCC does not favor any legislation that would force private colleges to allow concealed carry; we certainly encourage them to do so out of their own initiative as Liberty University in Virginia has done, but a private college (or private church and private association in this case) has the right to make any decisions they want, and barring some other law that might apply, those decisions need not be  consistent with any kind of first amendment principles.

To those who might insist that the pamphleteer should be viewed as having first amendment rights in this context, then we must also view the people in the crowd as having first amendment rights in that same context, and those people are currently exercising the both the right to assemble and the right to speak / listen to others speak. If a private actor could violate the first amendment in any sense, then it is the pamphleteer who is making the first violation by disrupting the organized assembly of another organization by walking into the middle of the attending crowd and conducting activities not consistent with the first amendment reasons the crowd was there for in the first place.

Further, the crowd is likely filled with a mixed group of people, who are being handed written materials at the very moment someone someone from the organizing entity is speaking. A reasonable person in the crowd might therefore reasonably assume the material is related to the speech or otherwise promulgated by the speech organizers, particularly since the pamphleteer is not wearing a button or otherwise visually distinguishing himself to make clear his lack of affiliation.

The nature of the venue also plays a factor. An event held at a private church conveys a more intimate setting then that which might be held at a public park. Organizers and patrons alike attending an event a larger event at a public park might reasonably expect opposition participation. While this event is outdoors, it is not (for example) at the state capital grounds during the legislative session where opposition might be expected and anticipated, but rather at a private venue.

Someone walking through the middle of their audience handing out pamphlets to the audience which is their to participate in the organizer’s event under these circumstances is not participating in best practices for being a positive persuasive force for their cause.

Before going on further, I would be remiss to not criticize the CeasefirePA woman volunteer seen in a red jacket for repeatedly using the word “parasite” at describing the person handing out pamphlets. The term was derogatory and unhelpful to her cause. I am sure the woman was frustrated, but this was an error on the CeasefirePA volunteer’s part. CeaseFirePA and its members would be wise to remember that the crowd is likely filed with a mixed group of people as noted above, and this rhetorical error was unnecessarily alienating to anyone in the audience who was neutral or who might have been opposed to CeasefirePA.

In email correspondence with CeaseFirePA (we wanted to get our facts straight, so we checked), CeaseFirePA makes clear that “The woman in the video is a volunteer who attended the event and doesn’t work for any of the groups that organized it.” In our view, the manner of her actions implied that she was acting on behalf of the organization, and we think it was error for her to act with this apparent authority. Based on her actions, a reasonable person could assume she was acting on directions from CeaseFirePA. The woman volunteer would have been much better off involving someone who had authority to intervene, so that that person could decide on the appropriate course of action.

The woman volunteer followed the pamphleteer around, and offered to collect back the materials from anyone who had been handed them. She did not force anyone to do so; at one point, a man in a black jacket keeps his pamphlet even after the lady extends her hand to collect it. Not being offered it by the man, she moves on. A very wise decision; the pamphlet is his property now, and forcibly taking it would have been wrong.

She also followed the pamphleteer around in order to bring attention to the fact the pamphleteer was not speaking for the event’s organizers. If these action had been taken by an agent of CeasefirePA, the underlying act itself (but not the rhetoric used) would have been proper since CeasefirePA has an interest in attempting to address any potential audience confusion and maintaining the integrity of its event. Here, however, the volunteer did not have the authority to conduct actions on behalf of the organizations who organized it, so her actions were not legitimate. Perhaps the organizers of the event did not mind the pamphleteer’s presence or actions, and even if they did, the volunteer had no way to know that and had no power to act on their behalf since she was not an agent of the organizers.  Again, this is a private event by private organizers, and only they are in any position to determine what is and is not consistent with their objectives. The volunteer did a disservice to CeasefirePA by acting in a way that implied she was acting on behalf the organization, and thus improperly imbuing them to any third parties present at the event with her actions and conduct.

The CeasefirePA volunteer said several times she was going to get “security”; we never see these people on the video. The CeaseFirePA volunteer should not taken any direct action; it would have been much better for the volunteer to summon this security or otherwise ask for the intervention of someone who was empowered to act, so they could take such actions (or not take actions) as they might have wished.

The CeeaseFirePA volunteer was also perhaps unwise to engage the pamphleteer after the event under these circumstances. I personally like talking to our opposition at both events we hold and events they hold, but here, the pamphleteer’s prior interaction with the volunteer did not indicate such conversation was likely to be productive.

It was also very unwise for the CeaseFirePA volunteer to say that “we’ll come and we will crash yours, I promise”. When she uses the plural (twice) , who else is she speaking for? Who else is she making promises on behalf of? Saying this was a major, major rhetorical error; it radically reduced the volunteer by explicitly adopting the legitimacy of the tactics used by the pamphleteer in this video, tactics that by her actions she earlier that same day explicitly condemned. In one brief and ill-conceived use of rhetoric, the volunteer instantly became hypocritical. Because she was acting with the apparent authority of CeaseFirePA and she uses the plural “we”, it also reduced that organization (or at least whomever “we” was intended to include) by association.

We end the video with the pamphleteer being asked by an unidentified man to leave. The pamphleteer inquires why this man wants him to leave. “‘Cause I don’t want you here”. This is a perfectly legitimate reason for a private individual.  In any event, it was clear at this point that the pamphleteer wasn’t really confused about why he was being asked to leave by the man.

Students for Concealed Carry believes in the freedom of speech for all and the consistent application of first amendment (and second amendment) principles. From time to time, we have been denied the opportunity to form clubs on campuses; denied the right to speak or hand out literature at all, or if allowed required to do so in far-away “free speech” zones far from any possible audience; denied the right to hold our annual empty holster protest (having to go to court in one such occasion); and other first amendment offenses by public colleges. We as an organization will not participate in any effort to silence our opposition by government force, nor do we sanction our members acting privately as “hecklers”.

Students for Concealed Carry believes it has the better argument and the better facts. We will win by the tools of persuasion. We will win by the tools of debate. We will win by the process of civilized commentary. We will win by the observed experience of the overwhelmingly vast majority of law abiding CHP permit holders behaving in a responsible manner. We will win by being informed, professional, and polite.

 

 

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Idaho Campus Carry Signed Into Law

March 13, 2014

For Immediate Release Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has signed campus carry bill SB1254 into law, which is expected to go into effect on July 1st*. The bill allows law abiding adults over the age of 21 who have been issued an Idaho enhanced concealed carry permit to be able to carry a firearm onto most parts of […]

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An open letter to Greg Hampikian

March 3, 2014

An open letter to Greg Hampikian, Professor at Boise State University: Students for Concealed Carry noted your recent op-ed in the New York Times on the subject of firearms in the college environment entitled “When may I shoot a student?” As you may be aware, Students for Concealed Carry is the only national gun rights […]

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When may a student be treated as an adult?

February 28, 2014

The New York Times Op-Ed titled “When May I Shoot a Student?” is an excellent example of the hyperbole and misinformation present whenever opponents of self-defense choose to ridicule the campus carry movement rather than have a meaningful discussion. The simple fact of the matter is that the current “gun-free zone” policies fail time and […]

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OU Launches Attack on Students’ Right to Self-Defense

February 12, 2014

Funded by tuition and tax dollars, the University of Oklahoma is launching a full-blown assault on the right to self-defense. A member of Students for Concealed Carry signed up to be a legislative delegate at OU. What he thought was a legislative agenda supporting higher education gave equal treatment to keeping students disarmed and defenseless. […]

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