Gun rights groups say they will conduct a mock mass shooting this weekend at the University of Texas campus as they try to end gun-free zones.
The Open Carry Walk and Crisis Performance Event will involve actors “shot” by perpetrators armed with cardboard weapons, said Matthew Short, a spokesman for the gun rights groups Come and Take It Texas and DontComply.com.
“It’s a fake mass shooting, and we’ll use fake blood,” he said. He said gun noises will be blared from bullhorns. Other people will then play the role of rescuers, also armed with cardboard weapons.
He said the group was not seeking any sort of permit for the event from Austin or UT. University officials were not immediately available for comment, but in November, university President Gregory L. Fenves spoke in favor of a faculty resolution opposing campus-carry.
Gun rights advocates have argued that allowing people to bring their concealed weapon into campus facilities could promote safety.
“Criminals that want to do evil things and commit murder go places where people are not going to be able to stop them,” Short said. “When seconds count, the cops are minutes away.”
Asked if he was worried the demonstration, which will be preceded by a walk through Austin with loaded weapons might appear in bad taste following the mass shootings in San Bernardino and Paris, Short said: “Not at all. People were able to be murdered people because no one was armed.”
People with a concealed handgun permit may carry their gun in some places on campus, such as sidewalks and parking lots. The new campus carry law, which goes into effect in August, will allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry their handguns into dorms, classrooms and other public university buildings, though universities may draft some campus-specific rules that may include limited gun-free zones.
UT history professor Joan Neuberger, who helps lead Gun Free UT, an organization supported by thousands of UT students and faculty that aims to keep guns out of the UT campus, said that putting on such an event is an act of intimidation.
“Staging a mass shooting during an anxious time for students — finals week — not only breaks rules but shows real disrespect for the feelings of students, faculty and staff who don’t want to have guns around them in the first place, but will be forced to put up with guns in public places in 2016,” Neuberger said.
Critics of the law have urged UT to take a highly restrictive approach, prompting the pushback from gun rights groups.
“We want criminals to fear the public being armed,” Short said. “An armed society is a polite society.”
“We love freedom and we’re trying to make more freedom,” he said.
A University of Texas spokesman says the planned mock mass shooting demonstration this weekend would be considered criminal trespass if participants do not leave when asked.
“Within the university community, the campus is a place for the vigorous exchange of diverse viewpoints, which is an essential part of the educational experience,” said spokesman J.B. Bird. “The property or buildings owned or controlled by UT Austin are not, however, open to outside groups for assembly, speech, or other activities, including theatrical performances, as are the public streets, sidewalks, and parks. Only the university itself, faculty, staff and student groups may engage in such activities on campus. This applies equally to an outside protest group, an outside theater troupe, or any outside group wishing to use the facilities or grounds of the university.”