AUSTIN, TX – Often, the hardest thing about fighting for licensed concealed carry on Texas college campuses is undoing the damage done by the small subset of gun rights activists who believe that theatricality and intimidation are adequate stand-ins for rational discourse and fact-based arguments. Case in point: the open carry activists who plan to stage an open carry march and mock mass shooting on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.
Antonia Okafor, Southwest regional director for Students for Concealed Carry, commented, “I’m astounded that eighteen months after most of the state’s open carry groups figured out that carrying rifles and shotguns into restaurants and grocery stores isn’t a solid public-relations strategy, one such group apparently thinks that introducing openly carried long guns, fake blood, and the sound of gunshots into a university community that is highly uncertain about the new campus carry law and understandably concerned about recent high-profile mass shootings is a smart idea.”
When SCC held its first empty holster protest in 2007, the organization instructed participants to provide advance notice to campus security and school administrators (using a provided form letter) and gave participants a list of six steps they could take (e.g., never placing anything inside a protest holster) to avoid even the slightest chance of alarming someone or causing confusion over the intent of the protest. The groups Come and Take It and DontComply.com, on the other hand, seem to be going out of their way to invite fear and confusion with their planned protest.
Retired SCC Director of Public Relations Wes Lewis, who served on SCC’s original board of directors and helped plan the first empty holster protest, remarked, “Some of these so-called gun rights groups seem to be little more than anarchists cloaking their antics in the legitimacy of the Second Amendment. Whoever and whatever they are, they need a remedial course in how to win friends and influence people.”
Responding to the suggestion that this type of public protest is why open carry legislation finally passed in 2015, Lewis added, “Anyone who credits these in-your-face protests with the passage of open carry legislation is choosing to ignore the two 800-pound gorillas in the room—this past [legislative] session was the first time the NRA made open carry a priority and the first time gun rights advocates in the Texas Legislature weren’t hamstrung by the Senate’s old two-thirds rule.”
Asked what, if anything, this type of protest has accomplished, Lewis replied, “If anything, I’d say these antics are responsible for making gun rights a much more partisan issue in the Texas Capitol. When [SCC] lobbied for campus carry in 2009, we enjoyed the support of several high-profile Democrats. Now, thanks in part to the public backlash caused by certain open carry groups, most Democrats wouldn’t touch a gun rights bill with a ten-foot pole.”