College backtracks on gun-club ban

October 13, 2009

A Pittsburgh-area community college has backtracked on its ban on students circulating information about a proposed gun-rights club, according to a national students’ rights group.

According to officials with The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit educational foundation that works on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at colleges and universities, the case involved student Christine Brashier.

Officials at the Community College of Allegheny County first banned her from trying to organize a chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus then reaffirmed that activity would not be permitted on campus.

Now, however, FIRE says the school has backtracked.

Not only are officials allowing distribution of pamphlets about the group, they also have "rescinded [an] unconstitutional policy demanding ‘prior written approval’ for ‘personal contact with individuals or groups related to non-sponsored college material or events,’" FIRE reported.

Brashier had been told by college officials that not only were her pamphlets unacceptable "solicitation," but further efforts toward those communications would be considered "academic misconduct."

"We are pleased that CCAC has finally given its students the right to encourage one another to band together for causes they believe in," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "This is another example of how just one college student standing up for her rights can help bring liberty to her entire campus."

Brashier’s pamphlets in April advocated organization of a chapter of SCCC at the school. Her pamphlets stated  the group "supports the legalization of concealed carry by licensed individuals on college campuses." She personally distributed copies of the pamphlets, which identified her as a "Campus Leader" of the effort to start the chapter.

Brashier then was summoned to a meeting with college administrators who told her passing out non-commercial information was prohibited.

"Furthermore, they insisted that the college pre-approve any pamphlets, that pamphlets like hers would not be approved and that Brashier destroy all copies of her pamphlet," FIRE reported. "At one point during the meeting, Dean Yvonne Burns reportedly said, ‘You may want to discuss this topic but the college does not, and you cannot make us.’"

The organization contacted the college’s president, Alex Johnson, but it wasn’t until after FIRE publicized the dispute nationally that college attorney Mike Adams responded with an affirmation of the college’s demand for prior review of materials.

"The college’s demand for a government veto over privately produced handbills could never withstand First Amendment scrutiny," FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley said. "Fortunately, through FIRE’s advocacy and the hard work of an attorney from FIRE’s Legal Network, the college has completely rescinded its policy."

The group said that after the school was contacted by Michael J. Rinaldo, a FIRE attorney in Philadelphia, the policy was changed.

School spokesman David Hoovler has told WND the dispute was mischaracterized by FIRE, and school officials had approached the student to encourage her to follow standard procedures in launching a student organization. He said the school also was concerned about the student identifying the group as an already-approved student organization, even though the brochure did not state that.


Schools: Community College of Allegheny County Cases: Community College of Allegheny County: Student Denied Right to Start Advocacy Organization