second amendment

A vindictive ceramics professor

The prospect of students publicly advocating for Second Amendment rights at Blinn College so worried one administrator that she told student activists not to expect to get permission to do it, according to a new lawsuit.

That fear of libertarian advocacy also allegedly drove a professor to make vague threats against a student activist.

The public college in Texas is the latest target of the Stand Up For Speech project by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has taken particular aim at college speech codes and free speech zones that limit expressive activity to small regions of campuses.

The project’s latest settlement resolved litigation against a public university for a “speech tax” it applied to a group hosting a controversial speaker.

The Blinn suit challenges the school’s free speech zone, “a section of pavement the size of a parking space,” as well as its requirement that student organizations get prior permission “to hold any meeting” and distribute written material to students, “even discussion materials” for a club meeting.

Nearly 100 pages of the 116-page suit feature exhibits such as paperwork students must complete, Blinn policies around demonstrations and photos of signs used by plaintiff Nicole Sanders and her Young Americans for Liberty chapter.

‘On campus, I’m not so sure’

The lawsuit recounts Sanders getting blindsided in February when “uniformed, armed campus police officers” told her and a fellow activist they couldn’t keep holding their signs and recruiting for the chapter around the student center. Sanders had been assured by defendant Erikah Brown, student clubs coordinator, that the activity was fine, the suit claims.

Student Center Coordinator Sheri Rich, who accompanied the police and is named as a defendant, told the students they needed “special permission” for the activity because Blinn was “private.”

Rich also implied they couldn’t get that permission, saying she wasn’t against guns but “on campus, I’m not so sure,” the suit claims.

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Defendant Mordecai Brownlee, then the dean of students, later told Sanders she had violated a policy requiring students to get permission from another official to “meet on College District premises.” She was also supposed to notify the student leadership office a month in advance, Brownlee said, the suit claims.

After an event – even club meetings – student organizations must submit an “activity report form” to student leadership describing what they did, Brownlee allegedly told Sanders.

Events that don’t get prior approval must be held in the free speech zone, a “190 square foot concrete corner outside the Blinn College Student Center, divided by a bulletin board,” the suit says. The school’s Brenham campus is 62 acres – plenty of space to hand out literature without interfering with other school functions, it says.

The suit also faults Blinn for making Sanders wait two months to get approval to distribute a “palm card” explaining Fifth Amendment rights – and even then, informing her group’s adviser rather than her.

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‘Think really hard’ before bringing YAL to Blinn

The strangest part of the lawsuit recounts what happened in April after Sanders returned from a YAL trip to Washington, D.C.

The suit claims her ceramics professor, defendant Doug Peck, grilled her about her trip and told her to “think really hard” before bringing YAL to campus, because it would “cause havoc for Blinn.”

Peck said in front of four other students that he’d “protect me and mine” from accusations against Blinn, and that Sanders “better think” before taking action against the school, the suit claims. (The professor had seen a video altercation of Sanders’ run-in with campus police and comments on the video suggesting she take legal action.)

Sanders took her professor’s words as an attempt to intimidate her “to not file the instant lawsuit.”

The suit also names the school president and head of student services as defendants because of authority over designating campus zones for free expression.

Catherine Sevcenko, FIRE’s associate director of litigation, said in a statement that Blinn couldn’t distinguish between “gun rights or gay rights” when it comes to letting students “speak out on the issues they are passionate about.”

FIRE said its legal team at Davis Wright Tremaine was the same one that secured the “speech tax” settlement three weeks ago.

Greg Piper is an associate editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)

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IMAGES: Young Americans for Liberty’s Blinn College chapter

Update on this story from two years ago about a student who faced criminal charges in an altercation stemming from his National Rifle Association t-shirt:

Jared Marcum’s mother has filed a lawsuit against the Logan County (West Virginia) Board of Education and several middle-school officials over their actions toward her son in April 2013, the Student Press Law Center reports.

The boy, then 14, was ordered to turn his shirt inside out because it displayed “the NRA logo and a hunting rifle that said ‘PROTECT YOUR RIGHT'” – allegedly violations of the school dress code. School officials called the police, and when Jared tried to tell his side over the din of the officials in the room, “police charged him with obstructing an officer,” the suit says.

Though the criminal charge was dropped from his record nearly two years ago, his one-day suspension is still on it – allegedly “because of his ‘inappropriate behavior with educators in authority,’ not because of his T-shirt,” SPLC says.

The First Amendment claim appears to be solid under the school’s own policies:

According to the complaint, Marcum’s shirt complied with the school’s student/parent handbook, which prohibited clothing that displayed profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases. The policy also banned clothing that advertised alcohol, tobacco or drug products.

“Unless it says ‘bring this gun and kill somebody,’ then that I think would fall under the language, but it’s a Second Amendment ‘protect your rights’ [message] and it shows a hunting rifle,” [Marcus attorney Benjamin] White said. “I can’t imagine anybody believing this particular shirt would be against that policy.”

Read the story and the lawsuit.

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IMAGE: National Rifle Association

Alleged ‘campus rape epidemic’ sparks fiery debate over allowing guns on campuses

An alleged “campus rape epidemic” facing colleges today is having an unforeseen side effect – it’s bolstering efforts to allow students to carry guns on campuses.

The oft-cited yet unsubstantiated stat that one in five college women will be sexually assaulted or raped has turned into a battle cry of sorts among those who declare these women should have the means to defend themselves with a firearm.

“Lawmakers in 10 states who are pushing bills that would permit the carrying of firearms on campus are hoping that the national spotlight on sexual assault will help them win passage of their measures,” The New York Times reported recently.

A sponsor of a bill in Nevada, Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, told the Times: “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their heads.”

One of the most talked about cases in recent years involves Amanda Collins, a concealed permit holder, who in 2007 was raped in a University of Nevada-Reno parking lot less than 300 yards away from the campus police department.

Per school rules, she was not allowed to have her firearm on her that horrific night, and has since traveled the country testifying about how her firearm could have stopped her rapist.

Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley told The New York Times “if you’ve got a person that’s raped because you wouldn’t let them carry a firearm to defend themselves, I think you’re responsible.”

Not everybody agrees.

Yale University student Alexandra Brodsky, editor at Feminsting and The Feminist Utopia Project, believes guns on college campuses will only arm rapists.

“We’re talking about why shouldn’t a woman be able to carry a gun to protect herself. But if you’re going to give her a gun, you also have to give rapists a gun, and I think that we can all realize that’s a really bad idea,” Brodsky said.

And writing in Reason, staff editor Robby Soave notes that while he supports concealed carry on campus, “I’m not remotely persuaded that more guns would mean less rape, for the simple reason that the kinds of rape most prevalent at colleges are unlikely to be prevented by guns.”

“Sexual assault occurs at parties, under the influence of alcohol and drugs,” Soave stated. “Students often aren’t aware they are being raped until the next morning—or long after the incident has passed. Campus rapists don’t generally ambush victims in the park, or break into their homes. Instead, they incapacitate their victims and rely on hazy memories to acquit them.”

As the debate rages, it remains a controversial subject on campus. In Baxley’s home state, for example, College Democrats protested his efforts to allow guns on campus.

But there are plenty of students who agree guns on campus should be allowed – for a variety of reasons. pinkgun

Timm Smith, a political science senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he was critical of his school’s policy, which bans guns from being brought into buildings.

“We as students constantly receive emails and text alerts warning us about violent crimes, sexual assaults, and break ins on and near campus, but the school does not enable us law abiding students to properly secure our persons at all times,” he told The College Fix.

Tayler Studinski, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, also voiced support for guns on campuses.

“Guns, while often portrayed through the media as being deadly and homicidal, can also save lives in situations involving robbery, assault, and rape on college campuses,” she told The Fix.

“Every individual has something powerful to contribute to the world, and without the fundamental right of protection, their potential and societal contributions could be jeopardized in something as tragic as being in a setting at the wrong time,” she added. “The solution is quite simple: the acquisition of a permit and the right to carry a concealed weapon on a college campus.”

Natalie Baumann, a senior at Edgewood University, agreed.

“With all the school shootings that have happened you can’t deny the fact that a lot of them could have been minimized (in terms of lives lost) if someone else had a gun to take care of the shooter,” she said.

Currently in 41 states it is illegal to possess a gun on a college campus, but in seven states it is legal in some fashion. For example, in Utah, a student can carry a concealed weapon in the classroom, but in Wisconsin they may carry it on school grounds, but not in buildings.

The College Fix reached out to the University of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin Police Department for a statement on their policy of banning guns in school buildings, asking whether they believe it will actually prevent a school shooting. Both offices refused to comment.

But the sight of more guns on college campuses may soon become a reality with at least 10 more states considering bills to remove or loosen bans on firearms on campus, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Virginia and Illinois currently do not allow guns on any of their college campuses, and both have had horrific school shootings in their gun-free zone universities.

On April 16, 2007, a crazed gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, and on Feb. 14, 2008, a gunman killed six people and wounded 21 more in the gun-free zone of Northern Illinois University.

Lawmakers across the country are trying to make sure colleges are no longer gun-free zones for shooters to cause massacres.

Said Texas State Rep. Allen Fletcher: “Law enforcement can’t be everywhere and these gun-free zones are some of the most dangerous places in America and Texas.”

However, even in the gun friendly state of Texas, education administrators are split on the policy.

Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp has said he feels weapons on campus pose no security risk, but University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven has raised concerns about allowing students to carry gun.

“The real question,” Sharp wrote, “is this: Do I trust my students, faculty and staff to work and live responsibly under the same laws at the university as they do at home? Of course I do!”

College Fix reporter David Hookstead is a student at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

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IMAGES: YouTube screenshot

So this is nuts. The Houston Chronicle bent itself backwards to scare people about Texas’ emerging legislation to legalize concealed carry on campuses.

Breitbart reports:

On February 21 the Houston Chronicle claimed the passage of Campus Carry in Texas could hurt education at colleges and universities and quoted M.D. Anderson’s Julie Penne saying it could hurt “cancer research” as well.

According to the Chronicle, legalizing the carry of handguns on campus “could cost tens of millions of dollars” and that money “could be…siphoned away from education and research programs at Texas universities.”

Using data from the Texas higher education systems, the Chronicle claims that many of the costs would be in increasing university police departments in response to law-abiding citizens carrying guns for self-defense. More “gun safes and lockers” would also have to be installed on campuses and “‘de-escalation’ and ‘judgment’ training for staff and on-campus security” would come at a high cost as well.

“Cost tens of millions of dollars?” Hurt “cancer research?” Wow. That’s a rare level of hyperbole and scare tactics, even if everything’s bigger in Texas.

Read the full article.

RELATED: University of Texas students vote against their own Second Amendment rights

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IMAGE: Scott Beale/Flickr

Tom H. Hastings teaches in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University. He also is the director of PeaceVoice, the website of which is probably what you’d expect: a massive conglomeration of race/class/gender articles.

Mr. Hastings has had it with gun violence, and, as such, wants the United States to ditch the Second Amendment.

Wisconsin Gazette.com reports:

This morning of Dec. 25, 2014, of the nine top stories from US Reuters, six were about shootings — four new ones and two about the national movement against shootings of citizens by police. This pandemic of sick violence, punctuated by mass killings of children, has gone on far, far too long. It is long past time to repeal the stupid Second Amendment.

The fate of the Second Amendment should have been sealed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that past rulings by their predecessors were wrong, that in fact the amendment that provided for a “well regulated militia” really guaranteed every individual the right to own a gun. Wow. That is an interesting reading of the English language. What the Supremes have done is to not only warp the meaning and make it into twisted law, but to further prohibit states and local governments from declaring their places free of legal guns. The conservative court once again rules against the power of states, a principle that used to be associated with darn liberals who wanted to make sure everyone had the right to vote, for example, even though they weren’t properly white enough. Now when a city or state wants to outlaw firearms, too bad. The conservatives took away their powers and rights in favor of Big Brother.

To say that Hastings’ knowledge of history (United States and legal) is wanting would be an understatement. For instance, the “principle” which imposes the Bill of Rights on the states, the Fourteenth Amendment — which Hastings lauds — is the very basis by which the Supreme Court held that an individual is constitutionally permitted to own a gun.

Not to mention, Hastings got wrong the year of that landmark decision: The case was decided in 2010, not 2008. In 2008, the Supreme Court decided District of Columbia v. Heller which pertained only to an individual’s gun ownership in federal enclaves — like the District of Columbia. It did not apply to the individual states.

2010’s McDonald v. Chicago is the case which applied the Second Amendment to the fifty states.

It’s certainly bad enough that a “progressive” like Hastings would like to pick and choose which constitutional rights states and localities should be able to deny their citizens; equally bad is his lack of contemporary cultural insight.

For, while Hastings is correct that the “only logical path … is to repeal” the Second Amendment, currently that task is so daunting as to be virtually impossible. Merely take a glimpse at the American public’s view on guns and gun rights over the years.

Note the historical trend: The last four years have seen record high percentages of people saying “no” to banning the possession of handguns.

The one trend among the public that seems to benefit Hastings’ view is the desire for stricter gun laws — forty-seven percent currently favor such. However, while a mere fourteen percent want less strict laws, thirty-eight percent think current laws are sufficient. Combined, that still puts gun control advocates in the minority.

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IMAGE: Mike J. Martelli/Flickr

Ladies: Be wary if your consort states that he’s a fan of the Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment. For, he might think that it allows him to legally annoy, troll, and intimidate others, especially on the ‘net.

So says Samantha Allen, a doctoral fellow in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. (But of course.)

First (Amendment): This could be a huge warning sign. Trolls cite the First Amendment as frequently as college application essays cite “The Road Not Taken.” They think that it gives them the right to verbally harass, stalk, and threaten whomever they want without any consequences. If your man picks the First Amendment, just ask him to explain what it means. If he thinks it means that “it’s a free country” and “people can say whatever they want,” tell him to go back to the playground he learned his politics from and find a new boyfriend.

In addition, here’s what Allen has to offer up about potential boyfriends and other amendments:

Tenth: Your man is passionate about states’ rights. Racists and homophobes love states’ rights. Be afraid.

Third: If he picks an amendment this useless, you should just dump him anyway even if he’s not a troll.

Second: Run. Seriously, just run! Your man might not be an asshole to people on the Internet because he’s too busy being an open-carrying asshole in real life.

As you might expect, Allen notes that guys who dig the Ninth (abortion rights!) and Eighth (he’s against cruel and unusual punishment!) Amendments are keepers.

Read the full article here.

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IMAGE: Andy Rennie/Flickr