A total of only 11 students showed up to the NRA’s Saturday afternoon training session.
The Yale College Republicans co-hosted the two-hour event, which was part of the NRA’s university program. The program seeks to educate college students across the country about the NRA’s functions and teach students to become more effective activists in firearm deregulation. During the training session, NRA representative Susannah Kipke redefined certain firearm terms used in contemporary politics and encouraged students to get involved with the NRA — often considered the leading advocate against tighter gun regulations.
“Put a yard sign up in your dorm or home and a bumper sticker on your car,” Kipke said when suggesting ways to drive up young membership of the NRA.
At the end of the event, Kipke distributed hats with NRA’s logo sewed onto them and offered the attendees a one-year membership to the organization. She also suggested that campuses like Yale invite pro-gun candidates to visit and host firearm safety classes in order to boost involvement in the NRA.
Of the handful of students attending, most identified themselves as “shooters” — in other words, firearm users.
NRA member Emily Taylor ’16 said that while the event went well, she was disappointed that so few students came.
“I kind of wished they would have had a larger turnout. It was well-advertised so I’m not sure why more people didn’t come,” she said. She added that people who are opposed to guns would not have felt uncomfortable at the event because the facts were delivered respectfully, without addressing polarizing issues outside of gun control.
Will McGrew ’18, a member of the Yale College Democrats, said even if he was aware of the event, he would not have attended.
“Even though I support the Second Amendment, I don’t want any involvement with an organization that opposes background checks and restrictions on military-style weapons,” he said.
Still, McGrew said the group “had every right to speak” on campus.
During the presentation, Kipke alluded to “trouble” regarding Connecticut’s recent gun control laws. In April 2013, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill into law that mandates universal background checks before purchasing or borrowing a firearm, adds more firearms to the list of state-prohibited assault weapons and bans magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The law was passed in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Though Kipke expressed opposition to this legislation, Yale College Republicans President Andrea Barragan ’16 emphasized that the visit was not planned as a response to Malloy’s legislation. She did note, however, that voters should keep in mind that in casting a ballot this November, they are selecting which candidate will uphold their Second Amendment rights.
While the NRA stresses no political party affiliations, members of the Dems said that they do not feel that the organization is nonpartisan. DemsPresident Becca Ellison ’15 said she was not surprised when she heard that the NRA was doing an event with the GOP because both organizations tend to pursue firearm deregulation.
“The Republican Party has closely aligned itself with the NRA in opposing even the most basic gun safety legislation,” she said. “I think people are tired of the obstructionism and misinformation when it comes to gun safety and want to move to productive conversations about how to prevent unnecessary gun violence.”
Both she and Barragan agreed that a better understanding of firearms and their use would be key in creating productive legislation moving forward.
When it was founded in 1871, the NRA worked with the New Haven-based Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which was the largest industry in New Haven. Now, the plant has moved to Utah, and Connecticut has some of the most progressive gun safety laws in the country.