National Rifle Association aims to educate on guns and policy at Southeast
A National Rifle Association coordinator spoke with students about gun advocacy during a Feb. 21 event.
The issue of gun ownership and control was the topic at the session presented by the National Rifle Association-Institute for Legislative Action, or NRA-ILA, and hosted jointly by Turning Point USA and College Republicans at Southeast in the UC Tribute Room.
In her presentation on the current state of guns in the U.S. and the role of her organization, NRA Grassroots Field coordinator Sarah Hitchcock said the association was the oldest civil rights organization in the United States, established in 1871, geared toward lobbying and supporting lawmakers that share the NRA’s views on the right to bear arms.
The NRA also supports politicians who match their views, she said, after the organization heavily researches their stances.
Her presentation also covered a swath of proposed legislation, with everything from the current House of Representatives-passed Bipartisan Background Checks Act or some states’ campus-carry measures.
Hitchcock said there are many misconceptions about guns and the push to ban certain types, noting the term "assault weapon" is made up with practically no clear meaning.
Other measures, like prohibiting people from carrying guns on campuses, she said are uneffective.
One piece of evidence for this, she said, was that 96.2 percent of public mass shootings between January 1998 and December 2015 were in Gun Free Zones.
Hitchcock graduated from Southeast in 2014 with a major in political science and said she was excited to be back.
“I’ve grown up with firearms. My husband, my father and my father-in-law were all in law enforcement or military,” Hitchcock said. “So it’s something I’m very comfortable with and something I strongly believe in supporting.”
Being accustomed to gun-related topics, she felt the job of working on the NRA’s behalf fit her well.
“To carry that flag is a privilege for me,” she said.
Hitchcock said she finds it rewarding to hear about the meaning the NRA carries for the people she meets in her travels representing the organization.
“I know a lot of folks may be deterred by the NRA,” she said. “But I think meeting me and meeting folks who are gun owners and really talking to people who are in this culture will really help open a conversation.”
Chair of College Republicans Ian Cameron said his organization works closely with Turning Point, and it is important for citizens to be educated on the issues of guns.
Second Amendment rights need to be defended, Cameron said, and the NRA is unfairly demonized since it is simply a policy group.
“These are incredibly complex issues as showcased by the amount of legislation, the amount of debate, and the depth and breadth of the issue,” Cameron said.
Turning Point president Gavin Sample said he did not think many people know much about guns, especially those who support gun-control measures.
His organization, Sample said, has always been proponents of the rights of gun owners.
The NRA has faced undue criticism and taken the blame for terrible incidents carried out by evil people, he said, even to the extent the association has been called terroristic.
The presentation was directed more at teaching and edifying Second Amendment supporters, Sample said, and probably would not reach many on the opposing side.
The event also drew an attendee from the other side of the aisle seeking bipartisanship.
Jacob Eisenkramer of the College Democrats said bridging the divide is the only way to get things done.
Regularly attending Turning Point meetings allows him to get both sides of the issues, Eisenkramer said.
“I’m trying to thread the bipartisan needle,” he said. “A single party cannot solve every issue on their own.”
The gun control debate is an issue where both sides make valid points, he said.
He said it was interesting to see the views of the NRA in person since the organization seems villainized by its opponents and portrayed as a victim at times by its supporters.
Whatever the solution to the controversy surrounding firearms is, Eisenkramer said he did not think anyone had come up with it yet.
“We just need to talk,” Hitchcock said. “We need to stop screaming.”
The NRA also has student organizations and activist clubs it supports directly on college campuses.
Both College Republicans and Turning Point at Southeast can be reached on their Facebook pages.