- Cullman, Alabama

April 10, 2013

Students take aim at Auburn Univ. firearms policy

Opelika-Auburn News

AUBURN, Ala. — Although you'll likely find him wearing a camouflage-patterned holster on Auburn University's campus this week, the only thing David Shamp is armed with is information.

The table Shamp sat at on AU's well-traveled Haley Concourse was covered with empty gun holsters as students walked by, asked questions and picked up information the vice-president of the AU Chapter of Students for Concealed Carry had to share as part of the organization's Empty Holster Protest.

"The empty holster stands for our defenselessness and we're defenseless because of Auburn University policy," said Shamp, 24, a U.S. Army veteran who spent a tour in Iraq.

The weeklong protest, which began Monday, is conducted in an effort to raise awareness about policies that the group says restrict the rights of self-defense to law abiding citizens legally licensed to carry concealed firearms.

The SCC a national, non-partisan organization with more than 40,000 college students, professors and employees in all 50 states, was founded by Chris Brown, a political science student from North Texas University in 2007 shortly after the deadly shootings at Virginia Tech. The AU chapter of SSC was founded in 2010 and currently has about 220 members in its ranks, Shamp said.

Shamp said state law does not prohibit the carrying of a firearm on public property if you have a permit.

As students visited the SCC's table on campus Tuesday, they had the option of adding their names to a list to receive updates on future meetings and group emails from the organization on ways they can help facilitate changes to current university policy.

Current AU policies prohibit firearms, among other types of weapons on campus, said Melvin Owens, executive director of AU Public Safety and Security.

While Owens said AU policy regarding firearms on campus is not currently being challenged, the idea of arming students is one he is not in favor of.

"I believe that arming students presents challenges to law enforcement officers as they respond to problems on campus," Owens said in a statement. "I do not believe that the campus is actually made safer by arming students."

Shamp said his organization is by no means encouraging everyone on campus to carry a firearm.

"What we want is that if you have the ability and are issued a permit by the state and you can carry legally anywhere else, then you should have that option to carry on campus," said Shamp, who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon. "We're not like, hey this is freshman year, here's your handgun. We want people who can carry already according to the law to be able to defend themselves here on campus."

Shamp said posted signs designating an area as a gun-free zone have historically done little to deter criminal activity in the past.

"Signs don't stop criminals," Shamp said.

Shamp said the next step for the AU chapter of the SCC is to locate a state sponsor and co-sponsor of a bill that would prohibit state-sponsored schools from restricting firearms on campus.