University of Texas Students are Protesting a New Campus Carry Law By Bringing Dildos to Class

Packing a gun to class will be legal under the new law, but openly packing a dildo actually won't be, under campus policies about obscenity.
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Packing a gun to class will be legal under the new law, but openly packing a dildo actually won't be, under campus policies about obscenity.

The gun control debate in the United States continues to be a matter of vicious acrimony, with mass killings periodically shocking the nation into a new round of discussion. In states like Texas, the argument is definitely falling out along the less regulation, not more, side: Next year, the state's campus carry law will go into effect, and any Texan with a valid conceal carry license will be free to carry firearms throughout college and university campuses. 

If this sounds like a terrible idea, you're in good company — many educators and students, with the exception of Students for Concealed Carry, agreed that forcing colleges and universities to adopt concealed carry policies could contribute to safety problems. 

Texas may have successfully forced through what it views as an affirmation of a popular reading of the second amendment, but some students are intent on supporting their first amendment rights. The University of Texas students will be carrying on the first day of school — but they'll be carrying dongs of all sizes around instead. Cocks Not Glocks aims to point out the absurdity of the legislation, with a cheeky approach.

Numerous Texas educators have expressed concerns about the bill, set to go into effect next August. They include people like ex-Navy SEAL William McRaven, who is chancellor of the University of Texas System. Discussing his role in the implementation of the law with CNN, he said that: "I've spent my whole life around guns. I grew up in Texas hunting. I spent 37 years in the military. I like guns, but I just don't think having them on campus is the right place." However, he's in the position of having to develop a policy that would allow any student with a conceal carry license to bring weapons almost anywhere. 

Under the terms of the bill, existing restrictions on conceal carry still apply. Students must qualify for and hold current licenses, and guns are off limits in places like bars and hospitals — such as the research and clinical training facilities run by the University of Texas, like the world-famous MD Anderson Cancer Center. 

However, colleges and universities are required to develop policy guidance within the boundaries of the law, something the University of Texas is in the process of doing under guidance from a working group, despite deep reservations. While the state university system estimates that only about one percent of students actually have conceal carry licenses, that's still potentially a lot of people. There are 51,313 students at the University of Texas, Austin alone. 

Alumna Jessica Lin decided to put her anger and concerns about the law into practice, suggesting a civil disobedience action with students carrying dildos to school. A testimony, she told Lauren McGaughy of Chron, to how "we're all a bunch of dildos for allowing this debate to go on for so long."

The protest is nod to the link to the complicated relationship between guns and sexuality — the gun as highly masculinized symbol, the sense that lives can be created or ended in an instant with one or the other, and the painful fact that many mass shootings, especially those that result in mass killings, are rooted in sexual issues. Whether it's misogyny driving killers to attack women, or the domestic disputes at the core of the vast majority of mass killings (husband or boyfriend killing wife, children, other family members, and sometimes even pets), sex and guns are a package deal. 

It's also a comment on what society deems "obscene." Packing a gun to class will be legal under the new law, but openly packing a dildo actually won't be, under campus policies about obscenity — keeping it under wraps is presumably reasonable. Students who violate the code, which states that: "A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly displays or distributes an obscene photograph, drawing, or similar visual representation or other obscene material and is reckless about whether a person is present who will be offended or alarmed by the display or distribution," can face a $500 fine. 

There's something absurd about the idea that Texas students could be surrounded by hidden guns and never know it, but can't carry a dildo to class. Not that there's a specific need for dildos in college classrooms, but that's part of the point: There's not a specific need for guns, either, despite claims that campus carry protects students from assaults, particularly mass shootings. 

Disturbingly, nine states including Texas allow students to be armed on campus. Notably, the legislation behind those laws is driven by notoriously right-wing ALEC, famous for developing cut and paste legislation to fuel causes just like this one, and the NRA, which has come a long way from its pro-gun control roots.

Conservative Eugene Volokh, not generally a fan of gun control — to his credit, he does think some regulation is reasonable — was only able to muster ten examples over nearly 20 years of cases in which armed individuals had been able to intervene in mass shootings. As of October 10th, there had been 300 mass shootings in the United States in 2015 alone, and many were fatal. Most were rooted in domestic violence.

Look to John Parker, Jr., a veteran with a conceal carry permit — and a gun — who happened to be on the Umpqua Community College campus at the time of the horrific massacre. He didn't fire a single round, saying that by the time he was aware of the situation, police were already responding, and he was actually concerned for his own safety given that he was carrying a gun and reactive law enforcement might view him as a threat, so he "retreated" into a classroom while the scene was cleared.

Just five percent of police chiefs think campus carry is a good idea — and notably, many are part of extremist groups like the "constitutional sheriffs movement." Such organizations believe in radical interpretations of the second amendment, rather than their ostensible primary responsibility: Protecting the public. 

As the Cocks Not Glocks protest went viral, thousands signed up to participate. So many, in fact, that Lin posted a note that she'd be looking into a mass discount to subsidize the cost, as "I know that quality dildos, especially super large ones, can be a little pricey." The protest sparked much amusement on the Internet, but also more serious discussion, because there's something baroquely absurdist about the thought that a dong (plastic or otherwise) is obscene, but an instrument of death, power, and control in a setting where it's entirely inappropriate isn't. 

As any gun owner, myself included, will tell you, you don't pick up a gun without an awareness that it has the capacity to kill someone, and carrying can be more of a liability than a protective measure if you aren't willing and able to fire it. The results of picking up a dildo, however, tend to be far more enjoyable for any and all parties involved. 

It's not just the University of Texas that has a disconnect between how it views cocks versus Glocks. As Lesley and I prepared this piece, I shot her a line asking about editorial policy on dildo photos, and we briefly discussed what would and wouldn't meet guidelines. 

"Depressing," I remarked, "that I wouldn't have even thought to ask about a gun."

Photo: Javier Candeira (Flickr, CC)