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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Students advocate for more lenient gun laws

    James Knitter, head of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, wears an empty gun holster on his waist. The organization, which advocates licensed gun owners being able to take weapons onto college campuses, is having an empty holster protest by wearing them throughout the week.
    James Knitter, head of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, wears an empty gun holster on his waist. The organization, which advocates licensed gun owners being able to take weapons onto college campuses, is having an ’empty holster’ protest by wearing them throughout the week.

    PHOENIX – Forget drunken debauchery.

    As soon as James Knitter, the UA campus leader for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus turned 21, he got a concealed weapons permit.

    “”I got my permit right when I turned 21 and I’ve been carrying ever since,”” the pre-physiology sophomore said.

    He put in his application to start the UA chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus just two days before the shootings that killed 6 people at Northern Illinois University Feb. 14.

    “”For me, the NIU shooting was vindication,”” he said. “”It gave me even more of a reason to start this thing.””

    Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is an organization that advocates for handgun license owners to be able to carry weapons on college campuses.

    The organization started right after the April 16 Virginia Tech shooting just more than a year ago. Since then, national membership has grown to more than 25,000 college students, faculty members and other citizens.

    This week, the organization is holding an “”empty holster”” protest nationwide, where students wear empty holsters to campus to raise awareness of gun laws, and for students and faculty to be able to protest the defenselessness they may feel by not being able to carry on campus, Knitter said.

    “”The empty holster is symbolic for current policies tying our hands behind our backs,”” Knitter said. “”With students that carry everywhere else, why should the campus be any different?””

    About 20 students are participating in the empty holster protest, which hasn’t garnered much attention from students, Knitter said.

    “”Surprisingly, no students have asked me about it,”” he said. “”Most people look at it and don’t even do a double take.””

    Even though the protest may not be attracting much attention, recently legislation has been considered in the State Legislature to allow students to carry weapons on campus.

    UA President Robert Shelton as well as the Arizona Board of Regents spoke out against the legislation, SB 1214, when it was moving through the legislative process.

    The bill failed to advance but Todd Rathner, a Tucson board member for the National Rifle Association and state lobbyist said he is still optimistic about the idea’s future.

    “”A bill that controversial takes time to educate the public and takes time to educate legislators,”” he said. “”Bills like that take multiple sessions.””

    There are still other gun-related bills moving along in the legislature including a bill that would make carrying a concealed weapon without a permit a petty offense like a traffic ticket instead of a misdemeanor, he said.

    Even though Shelton may disagree with Knitter, Knitter said Shelton was the only campus administrator that took the time to thoroughly listen to his concerns.

    “”As I’ve gone about this many people I’ve spoken to already have their mind decided on the issue,”” he said.

    And students don’t want to carry weapons on campus just to protect themselves from school shootings, but other crimes like a mugging or a personal assault, Knitter said.

    “”There are many situations where you can’t just submit to the criminal and just be OK,”” he said. “”You have to fight and to fight effectively in self-defense.””

    The key to facing opposition with gun laws is education, he said.

    “”Many people don’t know what to do to get a permit,”” he said. “”There’s a lot of misinformation.””

    Regardless, the empty holster protest, which will go through the end of this week, is a powerful image to convey to the campus community, Rathner said.

    “”It’s a really good way to convey the student sense of defenselessness.””

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