A year after campus carry became legal statewide in Texas, a woman’s gun rights group is taking off
Last month marked the anniversary of a major victory for the concealed carry movement in Texas – and the debut of a pro-gun group for women of all colors.
“Showing women that it is okay for them to carry a firearm is one of the best ways that we can help empower women,” Antonia Okafor, founder of the campus carry advocacy group EmPOWERed, told The College Fix in a phone interview.
In August 2016 the state began allowing students at four-year universities to carry concealed handguns on campus. The law permits anyone who is 21 years old and who has a valid concealed carry permit to bring their firearms with them to university grounds.
The law recently expanded to encompass Texas community colleges, as well. And a federal judge recently struck down a legal challenge to the law brought by three professors, strengthening campus carry advocates’ position.
At the same time, a new voice in Texas is rising up and helping to drive a movement of women protecting themselves by exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Okafor’s women’s carry group EmPOWERed debuts this fall at the University of North Texas. Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the state’s campus carry law, Okafor’s activism suggests the growing popularity of carrying firearms on campuses.
In a recent PragerU video, Okafor discusses her path to pro-gun and conservative activism. She says that as a young, black, millennial woman she had a “clear political path to follow,” one that aligned closely with mainstream American progressivism. However, when she began questioning the shibboleths surrounding liberal politics, particularly pro-choice politics, she claims her friends “got angry” and called her “anti-woman.”
“But I’m not anti-woman,” she remembers thinking. “I am a woman. I just don’t want to be a weak one. I want to be strong.”
Around the same time, the African diaspora studies department at her college, the University of Texas-Austin, released a statement demanding that “firearms be banned in all spaces occupied by black people on our campus.” This demand, Okafor says, implies that either “black people are more dangerous than other people, or less worthy of protection.” Questioning these pieties, she claims, caused her liberal friends to call her a “race traitor.”
“But I’m not anti-black,” Okafor says. “I am black. I just want to be safe.”
In the wake of these questions, Okafor decided that “the very definition of empowerment required me to take responsibility of my own life.”
“So,” she says, “I bought a gun!”
Writing in The New York Times, Okafor claims she eventually “found a network of women who felt the same way I did” and began advocating for campus carry rights. This led her to become the Southwest director of Students for Concealed Carry, and she subsequently founded EmPOWERed to train and advocate women who want to carry firearms on campus.
Okafor’s new project comes at a time when gun advocates claim the basic campus carry rights of students are well-established and defensible.
“Students are beginning to realize that life is no different after August 1, 2016 than it was before,” Quinn Cox, the regional director who represents Texas for Students for Concealed Carry, told The Fix in an email.
“Campus carry is not what it is portrayed to be by its critics. Concealed carry has been a law in Texas for over 20 years and [licensed to carry] holders are some of the most law abiding citizens in the state,” Cox said.
Students for Concealed Carry likes to point out the relative safety of campus carry arrangements: Over the past 20 years, more than 150 campuses have allowed concealed carry on their grounds, and “not one of these campuses has seen a single resulting act of violence (including threats) or a single resulting suicide attempt.”
Aside from the lawsuit, the new campus carry regime has apparently been instituted with relatively little fanfare. One exception was a professor at a Texas community college who wore body armor to class to protest the law, claiming “I don’t feel safe.”
Okafor told The Fix that EmPOWERed will be embarking on a campus tour this fall, though as of yet, no tour dates or locations are listed on EmPOWER’s website.
“The next step for the EmPOWERed movement,” Okafor told The Fix, “is to take the media spotlight and use it to show the world what women are capable of, and to make women the new face of gun ownership.”