NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.

Big gun on campus

November 10, 2008

If you want to go to college, you’d better check your funnybone at the door.

And if 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.

Therefore, translation: the word “gun” terrifies the living bejesus out of college officials.

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 a nonprofit educational foundation that fights to preserve liberty on campuses across the country. While FIRE is officially nonpartisan, libertarians will happily find several familiar names sprinkled amongst its Board of Advisors and elsewhere on its website.

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.”

FIRE might also suggest that the college officials try speaking the word “gun” out loud two or three times a day until their hysteria subsides.

Lest people think that Texas, once the poster child for rugged individualism, has gone completely to the gun wimps, check out this other campus at the top end of the state.

ABC News – August 15, 2008 – A tiny Texas school district may be the first in the nation to allow teachers and staff to pack guns for protection when classes begin later this month, a newspaper reported. (ABCNews video here)

That was way back in August of this year. And, no, most Texans never heard of this school either.

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Schools: Lone Star College-Tomball Cases: Lone Star College: Student Group Threatened with Probation and Derecognition for Posting Flyer