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The return of college gun clubs

By Dr. Michael S. Brown
web posted March 18, 2002

Few would deny the shift in attitudes about guns that has taken place since the election of 2000. One interesting sign is the resurgence of college gun clubs. Just a few years ago, the idea of college students starting a gun club would have invoked universal horror among administrators and politically correct student organizations.

Even now, they sometimes attract the ire of the traditional liberal media, as was the case last week with the Second Amendment Sisters at Mt. Holyoke College.

The New York Times published a misogynistic op-ed, "Chicks With Guns," decrying the fact that the women of Mt. Holyoke College might have an interest in armed self-defense and implying that only "country hicks" are comfortable with guns.

College gun clubs never completely went away. Many survived at schools which serve a rural or conservative region and where the Rod & Gun Club is a long-standing tradition.

But something has changed. Student gun clubs are now springing up at schools that could never be called rural or conservative.

Law student Alexander Volokh founded the Harvard Law School Target Shooting Club last fall. It now boasts about 115 members who enjoy shooting together at nearby ranges.

The club's web site announces their support for gun rights and includes a picture of Charlton Heston along with images showing club members with politically incorrect firearms at the range. Volokh reports a notable lack of political or ideological resistance to the formation of the club.

Another unlikely place to start a gun club is the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Art students with guns? The popular MICA Gun Club is notable for its very artistic web site with tributes to authors Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughs and William T. Vollman. Club founder Justin Sirois considers the club a "work of art" and is proud to disprove the "sissy" stereotype of art students.

One of the more unusual venues for a new gun club is Reed College in Portland, Oregon. In just the last few months, two women students co-founded the Reed College Shooting Sports Club. An estimated thirty students plan to participate in safety classes and range visits.

Reed is often referred to as a bastion of extreme liberalism, although a school with its own nuclear reactor and a tradition of intellectual freedom doesn't precisely match that description. The new club suggests that Reed students like to think for themselves.

These are just a few of the new campus organizations that offer students a chance to receive organized safety training and make up their own minds about the role of guns in society.

In email interviews with several club founders, they downplayed any major shift in campus attitudes about guns and denied any political motives. They feel their interest is perfectly natural and are pleasantly surprised, but not shocked, by the acquiescence of college administrators.

Perhaps only those who have watched the gun debate for years can understand the major shift that is occurring. College campuses are still liberal places, but the issue of gun rights is being uncoupled from its inappropriate linkage with conservative politics.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist and member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws, www.dsgl.org. He may be reached at rkba2000@yahoo.com.

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