Grassroots organizations tend to come with a certain appeal for politicians. After all, these are groups that represent a groundswell of support from the real people of this country. That’s why charges of “astroturf” are so damaging to such a group.

A while back, the Students for Concealed Carry got such a charge, and as the author seems intent on repeating it, they’ve decided to defend themselves.

Anti-Campus Carry “Journalist” Persists in Touting Conspiracy Theory About SCC

AUSTIN, TEXAS – When The Trace, the “news” arm of gun-control conglomerate Everytown for Gun Safety, published a 2015 article claiming that Students for Concealed Carry (SCC) was founded by a wealthy cabal of gun lobbyists rather than by a poor group of college students, SCC not only denied the accusation but also offered to make a $5,000 charitable donation in the name of any gun-control group that could corroborate the accusation. When nobody tried to collect, SCC considered the matter settled. Sadly, the freelance journalist who wrote the original article refuses to let the issue rest.

In 2015, Adam Weinstein, now a senior editor for military magazine Task & Purpose, was working as a stringer for The Trace when he wrote “The Secret History of the Campus Carry Movement.” In the article, Weinstein notes that approximately one year before SCC was founded, the gun-rights group Gun Owners of America (GOA) and the libertarian-leaning Leadership Institute (LI) had preliminary talks about starting a college-based gun-rights organization. Weinstein then makes the unsupported leap to the conclusion that SCC was actually founded by GOA and LI and not, as SCC has always claimed, by a handful of students.

When neither Weinstein nor his editors at The Trace responded to SCC’s offer to donate $5,000 in the name of any group that could substantiate Weinstein’s claims, SCC leaders felt vindicated enough to let the matter drop. However, in the wake of former congressman Steve Stockman’s multiple felony convictions, Weinstein is now touting his conspiracy theory—which attempts to tie Stockman to SCC—on social media.

On April 12, Weinstein tweeted, “Former congressman Steve Stockman was just convicted on 23 felony financial fraud counts. Good time to recall that he was instrumental in funding and organizing the right’s astroturfed, paid ‘campus carry’ activist network in US colleges.”

In recent years, The Trace has seemingly backed away from Weinstein’s conspiracy theory—a theory that at least two mainstream journalists, one writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education and the other writing for Rolling Stone, have failed to corroborate. So SCC decided to reach out to the editors of The Trace and ask them pointblank whether they stand by Weinstein’s 2015 article.

In an April 17 tweet to The Trace’s five editors, SCC writes, “@TraceBurnett, @ben_hallman, @KO_616, @3ba, and @MilesKohrman, does The Trace stand by @AdamWeinstein’s assertion that Students for Concealed Carry is a paid ‘astroturf’ organization?”

In a series of follow-up Tweets, SCC adds, “@TeamTrace, what does it say about your credibility when the same journalist who wrote your 3,400-word article accusing @NRATV of ‘fake news’ and baseless ‘conspiracy theories’ also wrote your 3,200-word article espousing a baseless conspiracy theory about a gun rights group?”

As of the morning of April 18, nobody from The Trace has responded to SCC’s inquiries.

As has been the case since the day Students for Concealed Carry was founded (by a political science major at the University of North Texas), all of SCC’s leaders and activists are unpaid volunteers.

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ABOUT STUDENTS FOR CONCEALED CARRY — Students for Concealed Carry (SCC) is a national, non-partisan, grassroots organization comprising college students, faculty, staff, and concerned citizens who believe that holders of state-issued concealed handgun licenses should be allowed the same measure of personal protection on college campuses that current laws afford them virtually everywhere else. SCC is not affiliated with the NRA or any other organization. For more information on SCC, visit ConcealedCampus.org or Facebook.com/ConcealedCampus. For more information on the debate over campus carry in Texas, visit WhyCampusCarry.com or tweet @CampusCarry.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, it probably doesn’t matter too much who started SCC. They’ve done great work, and I say that as someone who now can carry on a college campus thanks to the good work of people like SCC.

That said, though, the charges SCC are leveling are serious. A claim was made by a journalist, one he’s still not backing down on, that a group was created by two larger organizations rather than a college kid who wanted to defend himself. The Trace ran it, seemingly without fact checking to make sure the claims were accurate or possibly even reading it.

A claim like that calls Weinstein’s journalistic integrity into question, as well as that of The Trace. While The Trace is a biased entity, that doesn’t mean they are above journalistic ethics. Bearing Arms is a biased entity as well, but I wouldn’t run a claim, present it as fact, without having actual proof.

What Weinstein did was see a piece here, a piece there, and figured he had the whole blasted puzzle figured out. SCC argues that he wasn’t even close since those two pieces weren’t even from the same box (just to strangle the crap out of this metaphor).

Either way, SCC has done some good work, and I hope they continue.