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Pro-Gun Protests Take Aim

Group: Let Licensed Gun Owners Carry Weapons On Campus

By Michael Farfaglia
On October 11, 2007

When students wear holsters on their belts next month, they will be protesting the law, not breaking it.

It's part of the "Empty Holster Protest," organized by the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC) chapter at UConn, which aims to call attention to the 'gun-free-zone' around campus.

Chris Kopencey, a 3rd-semester political science major, and Andrew Dodson, a part-time student majoring in electrical engineering, have helped organize the protest to push for students already licensed in the state to be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus.

"Every school is a gun-free-zone, but it does not stop them [criminals] from bringing a gun on campus," said Kopencey.

Students will wear empty pistol holsters on their belts but will otherwise go to class as normal.

"We fully expect to have many people quite angry at the protest, but we hope to meet that with logical reasoning and sound judgment," said Kopencey.

Kopencey said the group has received opposition from Dean of Students Lee Williams.

"The University of Connecticut is our greatest opposition by far," said Kopencey. "She [the Dean] voiced her opposition in no uncertain terms to my ideas."

When asked about the protest, Williams responded via e-mail that university administrators have no control over the issue.

"The University is state property and as such, prohibits weapons being carried, concealed or not," said Williams. "This is a state statute, not a position."

The protest was inspired by the Virginia Tech massacre in April, in which a single student armed with two handguns killed 32 people before killing himself. The SCCC organizers believe that similarly armed students could have stopped the gunmen at some point during his killing spree.

"I believe firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens would have saved lives," said Kopencey. "Best case scenario, you have five cruisers coming to save you, how long is it going to take them to get there?"

However, he said he did not feel that firearm carriers should intentionally involve themselves in violent confrontations.

"Concealed carry is not about vigilantism, it's about protecting yourself and those around you," Kopencey said. "Fighting crime is for police officers."

When asked if concealed carry laws and the presence of firearms has saved lives in the past, both students were adamant.

"Absolutely, although it's not necessarily reported," said Dodson. "And in more than half of the cases, no shots are fired."

Dodson pointed to a National Self Defense Survey that indicated firearms were used in self-defense more than 2.5 million times per year from 1988 to 1993.

"The mere brandishing of a weapon can deter a criminal," he said.

"It's a deterrent more than anything else," said Kopencey. "If you're looking to rape someone in the woods, are you going to go after the girl that might have a gun on her?"

Dodson pointed to a similar shooting at the Appalachian School of Law in 2002, where a former student who had just killed two administrators and one student was disarmed and subdued by two students (who were off duty police officers), using handguns they had left in their vehicles because of the school's restrictions on concealed firearms.

"Criminals prey on the weak," said Kopencey. "Gun-free zones are a good example of that."

Despite the fact that SCCC is a political activist group, they are not tied to the National Rifle Association and are reluctant to advocate expanding the availability of firearms in general.

"This is not about giving 18, 19, 20-year-olds handguns on campus," said Dodson. "It's about letting those who have already gone through the process ... do so in the university setting."

Contact Michael Farfaglia at michael.farfaglia@uconn.edu.


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