National Rifle Association educates students on gun issues

Sitting around the Big 12 Room in the Student Union, K-State students prepare for the NRA-U presentation by grassroots field coordinator Sarah Hitchcock. The NRA came to K-State on Feb. 18, 2019 to educate students about gun right advocacy. (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

Standing in the Big 12 Room in the Student Union, Sarah Hitchcock introduced herself while silhouetted in front of a projector screen with bold letters reading “NRA-U.”

Hitchcock is a grassroots field coordinator for the National Rifle Association. The K-State College Republicans invited her to host a lecture on Monday, Feb. 18.

Benjamin Ristow, College Republicans member and senior in history, created a Facebook event inviting people to come see Hitchcock’s presentation.

As part of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA University program, or NRA-U, is described by its website as an “interactive presentation where students learn about the history of the Second Amendment, the NRA and the current gun debate.”

After her brief introduction, Hitchcock told the audience about how she almost attended K-State. She said she was planning on attending the university as a graduate student in political science, but then her husband, a member of the U.S. armed forces, was deployed to South Korea. The deployment caused Hitchcock and her newborn child to move back home, interrupting her graduate school plans.

Hitchcock’s presentation addressed common misconceptions surrounding the national gun debate, promoted NRA-supported legislation, informed students about NRA educational programs and introduced attendees to the NRA’s Collegiate Coalition program.

The Collegiate Coalition program connects students and NRA staff to promote the Second Amendment on college campuses.

Trevor Whitlow, junior in entrepreneurship, attended the event and said the reason why the gun control debate is divided is because of the removal of guns from mainstream culture.

“I feel like a lot of the issues stem from, like what our presenter was talking about, how not a lot of people in the middle or on the left shoot firearms or have never shot firearms,” Whitlow said.

Whitlow said unfamiliarity with firearms makes it hard for people to understand how legislation can affect gun culture. He said he believes it is possible to gather support from those unsure of which side of the gun debate to join.

“In the middle, we can win with independents and non-politically affiliated people,” Whitlow said. “We can win with them. People on the left, it’s difficult.”

As a result of the narrow margin in the Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, Whitlow said he thinks anti-gun activists want firearms to only be accessible to the collective population through state militias.

District of Columbia v. Heller was a landmark case in 2008 which defended an individual’s right to gun ownership under the Second Amendment.

Hallie Anderson, junior in agricultural economics, said the topic of guns is divisive because people don’t understand it.

“It’s the same reasons ag is controversial,” Anderson said. “They don’t understand it, but they don’t want to learn about it, either.”

To close that educational gap, Anderson said pro-gun supporters should take their time with the subject and relate it to other issues.

“Don’t throw it all at them all at once,” Anderson said. “Bring it down to their level. Compare it to something they already understand and kind of try and relate it to that, and that will make it easier for them to understand what you’re trying to get across.”