Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gun Rights Join Communism, Atheism and Free Love at Reed College

The following is a guest column by Ty Marbut, a student activist at Reed College in Portland and Oregon state director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC). SCCC seeks to get rid of the "gun free zones" which make students and faculty sitting ducks, and even magnets, for acts of pointless mass violence.

For more info on SCCC, contact Marbut at tyrel.marbut [at] reed [dot] edu.
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I have two items to report: the national organization Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC, www.sccc.org) and a new and very exciting shooting organization at Reed College.

SCCC is a national student-run organization that promotes self-defense on America’s college campuses by addressing both state laws and campus policies, and by working to dispel commonly held falsehoods about the feasibility and importance of self-defense on college campuses. I was recently appointed Oregon State Director of SCCC (although I’m not speaking on behalf of the organization here), and in Oregon we have chapters at Linfield College, Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Oregon, Portland Community College, and my school, Reed College. Also, I’ve been in contact with campus groups across the state independently working towards the same goals.

A general description of SCCC can be found on our website, www.sccc.org – click on “About Us”. Summarized, we are about 40,000 college students, faculty, staff, and others who form the organization as a non-partisan, grass-roots endeavor for the purposes I mentioned.

SCCC organizes a (roughly) annual event called the Empty Holster Protest in which thousands of American college students participate. There have been two so far, one in the fall of 2007 and another in the spring of 2009. The protest consists of students wearing empty holsters to their classes for a week, and culminates with letter writing, a money bomb, and get-togethers on Friday.

The most recent incident involving SCCC’s political domain (which I report to give you a taste of the campus concealed carry political world) was the arrest of marine veteran Jeffrey Maxwell, a WOU student, on Jan. 28, 2009 for legally carrying a concealed handgun on the WOU campus. A decent writeup of the story (though not a neutral one) can be found at: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=89280.

In Oregon, there is no law that prohibits concealed carry on college campuses. However, there is also no law to prohibit public universities from barring legal carry. The Polk County DA (rightly) dropped all charges against Maxwell in this case, but he was expelled by WOU (as the result of a public mock trial at which Maxwell wasn’t allowed to speak) and he would be allowed to return to school on the condition that he pass a psychological examination and that he author a 10-page paper about “the importance of following the law, accepting responsibility for his actions, and recognizing the impact of possessing weapons on a college campus” (Schilling - WND).

In general, this attitude towards concealed carry is typical of American universities, and Oregon colleges are (unfortunately) no exception: “if they want to carry guns, they must be crazy – send them to the shrink”. Perhaps this will help to sketch for you the political landscape that SCCC inhabits.

On a much more positive note, I’m also very excited to report on our new group at Reed College. For your readers who aren’t familiar with Reed College, we’re a small (~1300 students), private liberal arts college in Portland (more info on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reed_college). Depending on who you ask (Princeton Review, etc.), Reed is between the 2nd and 8th “most politically and socially liberal” college in the country, comparable to UC Berkely. Our school’s unofficial seal (which is found on t-shirts, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, and dozens of other items in our school’s bookstore) proudly sports the hallowed trinity “Communism, Atheism, Free Love.”

Every year before the start of the spring semester in the last week of January, Reed College sets aside one week which we call Paideia, a time when anyone at all, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and “friends” of the college may teach any type of class they like. A class has to be approved by the Paideia Czars and can be funded by the school. The week’s course offerings include classes like “Underwater Basket Weaving” (a perennial favorite), bread making, board game tournaments, joint rolling for beginners, henna art for beginners, lock picking, etc.

This year, I decided to put a challenge to the college (i.e. see how many people I could piss off) by teaching a 3-step handgunning course. First I’d have a 2-hour lecture on everything having to do with handguns and shooting that wasn’t really politically charged, which would essentially bring someone up to speed to engage in range shooting/target practice (gun safety rules, the history and function of handguns and ammo, more gun safety talk, good shooting principles, information about ranges). Next, I’d take the students to the range to burn some real powder and have the opportunity to try a couple different models of handguns. Finally, I’d offer a 2-3 hour lecture about self-defense with firearms, including the relevant laws, concealed carry, self defense shooting, verbal and physical tactics, non-lethal options, etc.

I had arranged for funding for 40 students to go on the shooting range field trip, partially from the Oregon Firearms Federation and partly from the college – students would have to pay $10 each for 2 hours of coaching, 200 rounds of ammo, a good place to shoot, and transportation. However, just before the start of the first lecture, the thought crossed my mind that, in the freakish event that more than 40 people showed up, I might have to figure out some sort of makeshift lottery system. In fact, over 120 students, staff, and campus security officers attended the first class, and the crowd spilled out into the hallway where some students sat on the floor for more than 2 hours to hear the lecture.

Some quick calculations revealed that between 10 and 15% of the students who were in town for Paideia wanted to shoot guns, and therefore, theoretically, 10-15% of the student body would want to shoot guns. Our range trips went very well with the help and hospitality of the Clackamas County Sheriff Office’s Public Safety Training Center, and the result was a new student group, the Reed Shooting Sports Kollectiv (named in honor of our campus “kommunist” organization, the “Reed Kommunist Shit Kollektiv” – they’re RKSK, we’re RSSK). RSSK grew in the first half of Spring Semester to be, most likely, the largest membership organization on campus (and if not the largest, we’re not far behind the “kommunists”). At the end of the semester we’d taken a number of funded trips to the shooting range, to the gun show, and held a number of gun safety seminars (which were coincidentally ice cream socials). Our members made up over 10% of the student body (136 as of May) and have expended about 10,000 rounds of ammo.

As members of the Blue Steel Democrats, specifically, might imagine, it’s been a very interesting journey bringing a gun organization to fruition in one of the most politically “liberal” environments you can find in the U.S. However, so far it’s been a testament to the spirit of Reed’s liberalism (this time without quotation marks) that such a group can thrive here. Most of our new shooters have heard exactly one political message about guns (a very negative one, of course) before contact with me and RSSK, and are often intrigued rather than appalled that I talk about gun rights in the context of other civil rights. The whole experience has seemed very promising to me, in that these young “liberals” who by-and-large have a solid grasp of the political world and who, by-and-large, think intelligently and independently about politics, are not only drawn to the novel political message I’m sending them but can, in many cases, accept it easily when it’s couched not in the context of the good ol’ boys of the Republican Party but in the realm of civil, individual rights.

In short, real liberals, like the students at Reed College, get it.


This coming fall, RSSK will be featured in the new student orientation days and will put on a number of gun safety workshops and perhaps visit the range once or twice. We’ll be a prominent fixture in the student handbook, the campus newspaper, and in general we have made a name for ourselves in the student social landscape.

Towards the beginning of the coming semester, we’ll also form a specific political committee. It’s been important to keep political talk separate from RSSK news and agenda in general because I promised everyone who signed up for our e-mail list that it wouldn’t be a political propaganda forum. However, most RSSK members are interested in the political stuff (i.e. SCCC), and once the committee is established, we can and will launch a fairly aggressive campaign to alter our school’s disarmament policy – what I call the “fish-in-a-barrel” policy. We’re hoping to get permission for and perhaps finance a gun safe in our campus security building where on-campus students can store guns and check them out to go to the range. We’re also working to make available “scholarships” to subsidize concealed weapons permit classes and other external (more official) shooting classes for Reed students and faculty. Then, come next Paideia (mid-January), we’ll host another series of classes, hopefully even more extensive than last year’s.

Any questions about RSSK (or, of course, info or offers to help us put on or fund shooting events!) should be directed to Ty Marbut at tyrel.marbut [at] reed [dot] edu.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was thrilled to read this about Reed and hope to learn more (through my own efforts I suppose, as it appears Zak is leaving for NH).

Carry Nation