Today FIRE is proud to release a new short film, “Empty Holsters: Gun Speech on America’s Campuses,” highlighting widespread campus censorship of student speech about guns. The film is the first in a new FIRE series focusing on how colleges and universities across America are preventing students and faculty members from speaking out on the weightiest political issues of the day.
With the recent Supreme Court decision in McDonald v. Chicago, the issue of guns on campus will only be hotter than ever. It is therefore more important than ever that the debate about guns on campus be a substantive one. As FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said today, “On too many college campuses, students have been prevented from and punished for attempting to form groups to advocate for gun rights, protesting campus restrictions on concealed carry, or even simply telling gun-related jokes. But an informed populace is essential to our democracy, and colleges and universities should be welcoming a debate on the role of guns in our society, not stifling it.”
In the wake of the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech, some students have argued that allowing students and professors with gun licenses to carry those weapons on campus might deter or stop future attacks. As one might imagine, this controversial proposition is vehemently supported by some and opposed with equal vehemence by others. FIRE takes no position on the issue of concealed carry on campus, but strongly believes that students should be free to advocate any side of the debate.
FIRE’s video, filmed on location at campuses from Pennsylvania to Virginia to Texas, features interviews with students from several colleges where administrators attempted to squelch debate over the licensed concealed carry of firearms by students. Tellingly, no administrators contacted at those colleges would agree to be interviewed for the film.
The video is the first produced by FIRE’s Sweidy Stata Video Fellow, Joe Stramowski. Throughout the fall semester, FIRE will be premiering fresh, new video content ranging from short interviews with experts and students to hard-hitting investigations into the stifling of campus discussions about our society’s most contentious issues. We’re looking forward to more great work from Joe over the next year.
The idea of this film and our upcoming series is to show that censorship on campus is real and has real costs. Students on both sides of the gun-rights issue feel that it is a matter of life and death. It’s time all of America’s public colleges and universities got out of the way and let a substantive debate about guns on campus happen in the very places where it is most appropriate—the campuses themselves.