For years now, anyone from the political right has had to worry about protestors when they go to speak at a college or university almost anywhere in the country. Most of the time, it’s not a big deal, but there have been riots and other sorts of nastiness, all because some didn’t like the ideology of the speaker.
Now, it looks like the pro-gun crowd is willing to play a similar, though thankfully more subdued, game.
In response to an appearance by anti-gun activist and soon-to-be Harvard student David Hogg, pro-Second Amendment students at Penn State University put together a march for their own cause on January 18.
Dubbed “Come and Take It” and organized by the PSU College Republicans’ Aidan Mattis, the march included demonstrators who carried American flags and signs which read “If gun-free zones work, how come 98% of mass shootings happen in gun free zones?” and “Gun rights are women’s rights.”
According to the Daily Collegian, Mattis said he organized the protest “partially [because] of Hogg’s opinions and partially [due to] the Student Programming Association’s absolute refusal to ever bring a conservative to speak.”
It seems that some felt the demonstrators were “insensitive” to Hogg’s experiences.
One counter protester by the name of Callie Maier shared an emotional story of a friend that committed suicide with a gun — and proceeded to share her disdain for the way the protesters went about their beliefs.
Maier (graduate-rhetoric) said she normally does not show up to anti-gun protests because gun ownership is a “complicated issue,” but she went on to say that she felt the need to come out to this one in particular.
Maier felt the way the protesters were going about the issue was insensitive to Hogg, who has experienced gun violence firsthand.
“I felt like it was my duty to point out that life is more important than guns,” Maier said.
Another student present, Nakola Sheppard, expressed similar sentiments to Maier in terms of being more sensitive to Hogg’s experience.
“I’m not mad at them, and I’m trying to understand where they’re coming from, but I think its the wrong place wrong time,” Sheppard said. “[The protesters] are taking a stance against a person who lived through something they have probably never experienced before. You will never understand the pain that [Hogg] lived through in those moments.”
Now, I’m going to point something out to both Maier and Sheppard.
First, to Maier, yes, life is more important than guns. However, guns save a whole lot more lives every year than they take. The topic of gun control is about life. In fact, both sides agree on that to some degree. Where we disagree is which effort serves life better. People like Hogg would disarm millions of Americans, deprive them of effective tools for self-defense, and call that serving life. Meanwhile, the protestors were calling him down, arguing that gun rights are about allowing people the means to defend their own lives.
For a graduate student in rhetoric, Maier hasn’t grasped the topic here at all.
For Sheppard, I’m going to outright reject any and all arguments of “wrong place wrong time.”
In the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting, gun control advocates get plenty of opportunities to express their opinions and push for gun control measures starting minutes after the reports roll in of another incident. They’re given every opportunity to push their message. They’re never told, “Wrong place wrong time.” They’re given free rein to push their agenda.
Yet the pro-gun side is told to sit there and shut up, that now isn’t the time for our thoughts and ideas. Sheppard thinks we have no business protesting Hogg, a guy who has made himself famous by attacking the very thing many of us stand for, the very thing we hold as most sacred because it’s the only insurance against tyranny we have in this country.
No, we will not buy into the “wrong place wrong time” message. I’m glad Hogg was met with protestors. I hope he continues to be met with protestors. After all, his message is dangerous. His ideas are dangerous. He’s openly advocating for policies that will result in people being killed, for crying out loud.
So yeah, we’ll protest him. We should. David Hogg has made himself a public figure, and his status as a survivor of a mass shooting doesn’t give his understanding of the issue any more validity than those of us who have studied it for years nor does it grant him any immunity from criticism.