Does Lone Star College–Tomball Really Fear the Word ‘Gun’?

By on November 12, 2008

Monday at Examiner.com, writer Garry Reed ridiculed Lone Star College–Tomball for its outlawing of any mention of “firearms” or “weapons” because of the “fear and concern” that such language apparently brings to people on campus. Here’s most of his good piece:

[I]f you think there might be even the slightest possibility that there could be something humorous about guns, don’t go anywhere near a campus.

Specifically, don’t go anywhere near Lone Star College-Tomball, a public college near Houston. (Don’t worry if you’re not from Texas, most Texans never heard of this school either.)

Several students, initially guilty of no offense greater than being members of a group called Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT), passed out a flyer designed to recruit new members into their club during a time specifically set aside for that activity called “club rush.” (original news article here)

The flyer was titled “Top Ten Gun Safety Tips” and included such entries as “If your gun misfires, never look down the barrel to inspect it” and “Never use your gun to pistol whip someone. That could mar the finish.”

What the YCT students apparently didn’t know was:

1. College officials never heard of David Letterman’s Top Ten List.

2. College officials have no sense of humor.

3. The word “gun” terrifies the living bejesus out of college officials.

Point three, in fact, is basically what the school’s legal mouthpiece said.

What he specifically said, according to the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), was this: any “mention of firearms and weapons” is inherently a “material interference with the operation of the school or the rights of others” because such language “brings fear and concern to students, faculty and staff.”

Let’s parse this statement, not to confuse and obfuscate as the political and lawyerly classes do but to clarify and enlighten. It’s not firearms and weapons that bring fear, it’s any “mention” of firearms and weapons and “such language” that brings fear. [...]

This is beyond the absence of humor. This is Pavlovian Response Disorder: See word that none dare speak its name. Hysterically overreact. Confiscate flyers. Censor group’s freedom of expression. Threaten to put group on probation. Threaten to disband group. Maniacally claim that utterance of word that none dare speak its name is equivalent to Virginia Tech shootings in which actual people actually died from actual guns.

Students had their own Pavlovian Response. See College Officials overact to a piece of paper about guns. Contact FIRE. [...]

FIRE is currently fighting for the rights of the Young Conservatives of Texas by reminding the Brahmins of Lone Star College-Tomball that as a public institution they are “required to respect the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and to acknowledge that the flyer’s contents constitute protected speech.”

There is simply no reasonable rationale that the school could provide to justify its censorship of the YCT flyer. Peaceful expression enjoys full constitutional protection even when the subject of that peaceful expression is guns or firearms. Tomball does not seem to understand this; indeed, FIRE recently received word that YCT has had to defend its right to exist before the school’s student government. It seems that Lone Star College–Tomball simply won’t let go of its completely unconstitutional idea that its students, faculty, and staff are so weak that they must be protected from any mention of firearms and weapons. This case is an embarrassment to the Tomball community.

Schools: Lone Star College-Tomball