Students at the University Of Texas at Austin are planning to protest a new law that permits the concealed carry of handguns on campus — with dildos.
The “campus carry” law passed by the Texas legislature and signed by the Governor in June, requires UT Austin and the other campuses in the UT system to allow students to carry guns on campus. It gives the schools some discretion on how to implement the law.
The protest is designed to draw attention to the fact that carrying a dildo to class could be “prohibited expression” under university rules. The rules prohibit “any writing or visual image, or engage in any public performance, that is obscene.”
“You’re carrying a gun to class? Yeah well I’m carrying a HUGE DILDO. Just about as effective at protecting us from sociopathic shooters, but much safer for recreational play,” the organizer, Jessica Jin, wrote.
It’s entirely reasonable for 40 Acres denizens to question and criticize the new campus-carry law; the University of Texas was the site of one of the first sensational school shootings in 1966. During freshman orientation ca. 2000, our guide made sure to point out the bullet holes in George Washington’s statue.
Nevertheless, the campus freak-out about concealed carry is not entirely beyond criticism itself. No, not the obnoxious, misogynistic remarks being made by Internet bros. Rather, the more fundamental question being raised by The Daily Texan’s Alex Arevalo — to wit, where the hell were you guys when it might have made a difference?
Over 5,000 supporters, including more than 390 faculty members, have signed a petition to oppose guns in campus classrooms, dorms and offices. Gun-Free UT, the group that started the petition, formed shortly after the passing of SB11 and has been actively seeking to repeal the law by speaking out at public forums and organizing rallies.
While its concerns are understandable, Gun-Free UT bypassed pivotal stages in the legislative process that could have been capitalized on. The first mistake was creating the petition well after the bill had been signed into law. The second was intensifying uproar only when the legislation became a reality, instead of just a proposal.
At this point, opponents must work twice as hard to repeal a law which the legislature gave the green light. Opponents of the law should have participated at the same rate as gun advocates, and as early on.
The first public hearing concerning the bill was held in February, one week after Gov. Greg Abbott went on record saying the bill would probably pass. A month later, the state Senate approved campus carry, and three months after that, the bill was signed into law.
Throughout this time gun advocates have been attending press hearings and staging rallies at the State Capitol. In contrast, the anti-campus carry petition only came into existence in the last couple of weeks, according to Bryan Jones, a government professor and Gun-Free UT spokesperson.
To be sure, even huge protests by pro-choice students failed to put a dent into the odious anti-abortion bill SB5. The Lege has been ignoring students with regard to tuition increases for years. The Lege also seems to have gone out of its way to ignore and marginalize gun control advocates this year.
But you know what? If you don’t vote, you get the Legislature you (don’t) vote for.
How many of the Gun-Free UT students actually showed up to vote last November? We know that statewide turnout was an abysmal 33.6 percent. In Precinct 208 (on the UT campus), turnout last year was a miserable 22 percent (49 percent during the 2012 presidential election). According to exit polls, 18-29 years old made up a paltry 14 percent of the Texas electorate last year (by comparison: it was about 18 percent in 2008).
To be sure, our Voter ID law unfairly excludes student IDs as a form of identification. But I seriously doubt this was the main reason for low participation.
Moreover, Arevalo notes that at this point, the right argument probably needs to be how to implement SB11 in a way that makes sense, rather than taking a maximalist anti-gun approach:
While it’s admirable to stand up for one’s convictions, at the point in which legislation turned into law, the opposition should have formed a different argument. The rhetoric should switch from banning guns on campus in their entirety to advocating for stricter regulations in campus carry’s enforcement.
I think this is probably true. Hopefully, the UT administration will take a pragmatic approach with regard to gun lockers, gun-free zones, etc.
On the one hand, it is good to see fervent support for gun regulation. However, one wonders if this approach is going to generate more heat than light. Moving forward, I hope that Gun-Free UT is able to build and maintain an organization that will actually grab the Lege’s attention, rather than simply grabbing headlines.