As rain poured down onto Radford University on Wednesday, Dec. 7, a group of pro-gun advocates called Virginia Citizen’s Defense League set up tents in front of the Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center.
The VCDL came to RU with the support of the College Republicans. They were allowed to hand out literature and pro-gun stickers to anyone who approached them, but could not approach students because of the university’s rule against soliciting.
During the rally, three people spoke in the 30 minute period the school allotted to them to use the speaker equipment. Philip Van Cleave, president of the VCDL, as well as Eryn Bartholomew and Dave Knight spoke in favor of guns on campus.
“It’s not fair that students who pay to go here can’t have guns,” said Bartholomew, as a representative of the College Republicans.
Knight was speaking on behalf of VCDL, and as a father who watched the news during the Virginia Tech April 16, 2007 shootings, hoping his daughter was safe.
Van Cleave said that RU allowed the group less time to use the speaker equipment than they are used to, but that 30 minutes was enough.
“If you can’t say what you need to say in five minutes, maybe you should reconsider,” he said.
The real reason they came to RU is because they are touring as many Virginia campuses as they can to gain support. They also believe that alumni shouldn’t donate money to their alma maters if the school has an anti-gun policy. That is what the pamphlets they passed out were for.
A week before Thanksgiving, VCDL also came to Virginia Tech, where they were met with more opposition than at RU. During that rally, Van Cleave said that in the time it takes police to come to help individuals, they should have a way to protect themselves.
“[Police] are here to protect the public in general,” Van Cleave said. “They’re not here for any individual, but the problem is they double down by saying you can’t defend yourself.”
While rallying at RU, the VCDL mostly encountered interested students who either wanted to discuss why guns should be carried on campus, or wanted a sticker to show their support. In the first two hours there were few people who made any negative remarks toward them, most who disagreed simply stayed away.
In the last hour, about six people openly protested the pro-gun stance, but it was short-lived.
The VCDL’s next stop is James Madison University. They have already been to George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech this semester.