While Connecticut has some of the most progressive gun laws in the country, an on-campus seminar with the National Rifle Association later this month will give students exposure to the flip side of the gun control debate.
The NRA is scheduled to visit the University on Oct. 18 to deliver a “training seminar” about gun control, which will be co-hosted by the Yale College Republicans.
The two-hour long seminar is part of the organization’s NRA University program, which purports to teach college students across the country about the gun control debate and train those students to become more effective activists against firearm regulations. Andrea Barragan ’16, president of the Yale College Republicans, said the NRA reached out to her to hold the event on Yale’s campus. Barragan said she hopes the event will “bring political diversity” to the campus and “debunk some myths about the Second Amendment.”
On the other side of the political spectrum, Rebecca Ellison ’15, president of the Yale College Democrats, said the event is “a step backwards rather than forwards.”
“The NRA is opposed to even the most basic gun safety laws,” Ellison said.
An online video on the NRA University website says that “college campuses are a breeding ground for anti-gun thought and activism,” and adds that the NRA program will train the future supporters of the Second Amendment. The program website further says the seminar will clarify anti-gun myths and cover topics such as the use of guns for self-defense and the NRA’s solutions for crime reduction.
Although the website markets the program as an opportunity for students interested in activism to work together, Barragan said she hopes the event draws both gun control supporters as well as students who simply want to learn about the Second Amendment.
“The more the merrier,” she said.
Eli Westerman ’18, a lifetime member of the NRA said he looks forward to seeing how the NRA discusses the Second Amendment with college students.
Despite her own opposition to the NRA’s policies, Ellison said that because the issue of gun legislation is so divisive, she expects the event will draw a big crowd of students eager to engage in political dialogue.
Barragan echoed this sentiment, noting that she hopes that people will be open to the event even if they oppose the NRA’s views.
“I would hope that people are tolerant,” Barragan said.
Political science professor Michael Fotos anticipates that Yale students will be tolerant of the NRA’s visit, given his past experiences with events featuring controversial viewpoints. He said he was among the crowd of students and faculty who waited outside Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall to hear a speech on Sept. 15 from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born activist known for her critical remarks on Islam. Even though several undergraduate organizations on campus signed a letter expressing concern with bringing Ali to campus, Fotos said everyone was respectful at the talk.
Fotos added that students who are against the NRA’s views have every reason to attend the upcoming seminar.
“If you don’t like the NRA’s position on the issues, go listen to what they have to say and then write a 500-word essay that responds to the points they make.” he said.
The event, to be held from 2–4 p.m. in Linsly-Chittendon Hall 213, will be the first time the NRA has worked with the Yale College Republicans.
Correction: Oct. 7
A previous version of this article misstated the views of Becca Ellison ’15. Ellison did not say the event would be inappropriate, nor did she invoke the Newtown shooting in explaining her concerns about the National Rifle Association.