Staged mock shooting near campus met with student protest

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Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

In response to a gun-support organization’s plan to stage a mock shooting near UT campus Saturday, a group of UT students protested with signs, chants and fart noises.

Approximately 10-15 members of gun-support group DontComply.com – which aimed to spotlight the open carry movement ‘Come and Take It Texas’ – gathered at the San Antonio Parking Garage around 12:00 p.m. Saturday to host a ‘Life and Liberty Walk to End Gun Free Zones’ rally and stage a mock shooting.

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The mock shooting, which had initially been planned on campus, was moved off campus after the Dean of Students reached out to the group organizers and explained that such an act would be “a violation of campus rules,” according to an emailed statement by Bob Harkins, associate vice president for campus safety and security.

With a sign that read, “Mock shootings mock victims,” and a chant that said, “Our history is not a joke,” approximately 15-20 UT students gathered near the University Co-op around 12:30 p.m. Saturday to follow the gun-support group march around Guadalupe, 22nd Street, San Antonio Street and ending in the San Antonio Parking Garage.

Economics senior Baylor Morrison, who organized a protest group against the mock shooting, said the purpose of the protest was not to argue about gun rights, but to disagree with the way DontComply.com voiced its support for carrying guns on campus.

“Our protest is that this mock shooting is disrespectful to our history,” Morrison said, referring to the 1966 shooting on UT’s campus. “People from both sides have supported us. We have pro-gun rights people in our group … who think it shouldn’t happen.”

Morrison said according to a poll on DontComply.com’s Facebook event that asked participants whether the plan would help or hurt, most people answered it would only hurt.

John Young of Cedar Park rallied with DontComply.com.

“I came down to support gun rights for the United States, especially Austin, because the liberal gun policies have failed gun-free zones,” Young said. “All it does is takes away the God-given right to defend ourselves, and I think that’s wrong.”

Anthropology and sociology sophomore Xavier Durham, who joined the protest against the mock shooting, said his protest was less about his stance on gun rights and more about the timing and the method used by DontComply.com to express its opinions.

“This is done in a bad timing,” Durham said. “This is a time when we just suffered from mass shootings. People have lost their lives and we’re saying, ‘Let’s mock that. Let’s actually make an event where people are faking dying…’ when we’ve had more mass shootings than days in the year so far in 2015.”

When someone from the protest group raised concerns about the insensitivity of the mock shooting, Julie Wilson, who joined the rally as part of DontComply.com, said she disagreed.

“The point [of the mock shooting] is to promote safety, so that someone that is educated with a weapon can stop these shootings, because what’s happening right now isn’t working,” Wilson said. “The buildings that are targets, where the shootings happen, no one is armed on the facility, and that’s why people are dying. Something needs to change. … People know in Texas there’s a good chance someone might have a weapon; they couldn’t have weapons in Fort Hood — they were all defenseless.”

When asked about statistics showing a correlation between more restrictions on gun laws and fewer number of gun deaths, Wilson said she disagreed with the data.

“A lot of data that’s being put out right now by the media is really twisted in the event to promote their agenda,” Wilson said. “Anyone that is involved with the media, or reads a lot of news, understands that the media is very liberal right now. Under President Obama, he’s very protective of his policies. President Obama has been pushing gun control since he’s been in office, and the majority of the media has acted as an earpiece for that.”

Morrison said the protest against the mock shooting was effective.

“The majority of UT students think guns on campus is a bad idea,” Morrison said. “These people aren’t from Austin. They’re from Amarillo, Lewisville … they’re coming here and it’s completely political, because this doesn’t even affect them. Why do they care if we have guns? They’re not students, [and] they’re not parents of students.”

The mock shooting, which was initially announced to be staged at 2:30 p.m. in the West Mall, actually happened at the intersection of 27th Street and Whitis Avenue. Few witnesses were present to see the mock shooting.

Murdoch Pizgatti, president and founder of ‘Come and Take It Texas’ and president and co-founder of DontComply.com, said the unannounced change in plan was effective in getting across his group’s message.

“The fact is, we could’ve gone the presentation at that location, but all of the students made it clear they were not going to give us a space and time to voice our opinions in that particular location,” Pizgatti said. “We decided to take the high road and give them the time and space to voice their opinions, so we brought the entire media down to them, let them talk about it and discuss their opinions on gun-free zones, while we were illustrating at an even higher rate of mass shooting, being unpredictable, just underneath everyone’s nose, without anyone knowing. (sic)”

Pizgatti said his group had planned the change all along.

“Our point is to start this national narrative, and that is exactly what we did,” Pizgatti said. “We wanted to do it over here and illustrate the unpredictability.”

Biology freshman Graham Houpt, who was part of the protest group against the mock shooting, was present at the shooting scene. Houpt was not present during the shooting itself, but said most supporters of the gun-support group had participated in the march and not the shooting.

“Props them for being clever and flexible, but if their goal was to bring attention to a certain issue, then they failed in that goal, because no one was really here to see that happen,” Houpt said. “The only people that were present for them to make their point were themselves, and they don’t need to hear it because they already believed it.”

An officer at the scene said the mock shooting, which occurred at the sidewalk of Duren residence hall, was considered off campus. According to the officer, 20 feet into the curb of the sidewalk is considered on campus and part of the University’s property, and anything past the mark is considered off campus.

The officer said as long as members of DontComply.com have “exercised their constitutional rights,” he would not worry about measuring the ground.