FIRE on 1st *and* 2nd Amendment infractions
"In the spring, the South Campus of Tarrant County College (TCC) declared that wearing empty gun holsters, even during an officially sanctioned protest in the school’s tiny free speech zone, was too much for its fragile students to bear in this scary, post–Virginia Tech massacre world. TCC student Brett Poulos had notified administrators that his group would be engaging in an “Empty Holster Protest,” collaborating with Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC), a national organization that “supports the legalization of concealed carry by licensed individuals on college campuses.” SCCC promoted a coordinated national protest for April 2008 in which students would peacefully attend class and perform other daily tasks while wearing empty holsters to signify opposition to state laws and school policies denying concealed handgun license holders the same rights on college campuses that they are granted in most other places.
In an April 10 response Juan Garcia, Vice President for Student Development, “granted” Poulos’ request to stage a protest on the South Campus, but he changed the fundamental nature of the protest by banning the protesters from wearing empty holsters anywhere on the South Campus, including in the designated free speech zone. The tiny free speech zone on the South Campus, according to Poulos, is an elevated, circular concrete platform about 12 feet across. Poulos met with Garcia on April 18 and was told that TCC would take adverse action if SCCC members wore empty holsters anywhere, strayed beyond the campus’s free speech zone during their holster-free “empty holster” protest, or even wore t-shirts advocating “violence” or displaying “offensive” material.
Later, in a May 29 radio interview with the National Rifle Association on NRA News, Garcia explained that after the Virginia Tech and Northeastern Illinois shootings, students were “on edge,” so “any kind of equipment for guns” was something that TCC would not accept because it was “threatening” and would “disrupt our learning environment.” Garcia admitted that no students had said they were afraid of empty holsters and also said (seeming to contradict himself) that the VT/NIU incidents had “nothing to do with Brett Poulos.” Nevertheless, Garcia said, corralling the student protesters in the free speech zone was appropriate because “we want students in an area where we can provide security for both sides” and TCC would not allow protests anywhere on campus without knowing about it because that would just create an “open field” for anyone to protest anywhere.
It bears mentioning that TCC was the only public college in the country that banned empty holsters from campus during the nationwide protest.
If you think that case is nuts, take a look at what happened this fall at Lone Star College–Tomball, which used an even crazier rationale for censoring a tongue-in-cheek “Top Ten Gun Safety Tips” flyer during a student activities fair. After college officials banned the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) from distributing the flyer, the general counsel for the entire Lone Star College System invoked the specter of the Virginia Tech shootings, suggesting that even a “mention of firearms and weapons” is inherently a “material interference” with the school’s operations. The new group’s status as a student organization was even threatened simply because of the flyer, although recently FIRE learned that the group would be allowed to exist after all. We await word from school administrators, however, about whether the flyers will remain censored."