A group of students at the University of Calgary recently submitted a proposal to the Students’ Union to create the University of Calgary Firearms Association. According to UCFA president Henry Lung, the gun club will host events and discuss politics — all with the aim of organizing and representing firearms owners on campus.
“A big focus of the club will be teaching firearms safety, giving people opportunities to practice target shooting and possibly hunting excursions,” Lung said. “Our secondary focus will be on dispelling misconceptions about firearms owners and representing owners and enthusiasts here on campus.”
Most of the executives are licensed gun owners. They plan on going to shooting ranges in and near the city for club events.
Lung said he believes there is already a community of unorganized firearms owners on campus that would benefit from representation.
“There are a number of us [firearms owners] here and we really needed better organization. It’s kind of unfortunate that a group like this hasn’t already sprung up on campus,” Lung said.
UCFA operations director and second-year engineering student Delano Civitarese echoed Lung’s sentiments, adding that he has enjoyed shooting for most of his life.
“My extended family has been into hunting for years, so I’ve been going out since I was 11 or 12 years old,” Civitarese said. “I’ve been raised around guns and hunting. I like trying to go shooting at least once a week.”
While the focus of the club will be on education and leisure, vice-president communications Adam Strashok said serious gun-related issues will be explored.
Strashok and Lung said they disagree with many of Canada’s current gun policies, including the choice of guns on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s prohibited firearms list and the classification of certain guns as “assault weapons.”
Civitarese said he recognizes that safety and organization will be a challenge in operating a student gun club, but says his club is prepared.
“People are obviously going to want to shoot. Before this, they’re going to have to go through some safety with the group first,” Civitarese said. “We need to make sure that they have some experience with firearms, that they’re able to operate and use different types of firearms. We just want to make sure that they’re not going to be pointing the gun at anybody.”
Lung said a similar club at Carleton University called the Firearms Association of Carleton University was part of the inspiration behind creating the UCFA.
Carleton’s gun club proved popular after its founding, attracting over 350 members.
But the group also had detractors. Members of the Carleton University’s Students’ Association were unsuccessful in their attempt to ban the group through a referendum in January 2012. CUSA members felt it was dangerous to promote gun use on campus and argued that the club promoted violence.
Strashok said that there will be members of the university community who won’t support the formation of the UCFA. But Strashok and the other executives believe strongly in the club and are confident that they will be able to defend its merits.
“We know there’s going to be negative attention, but we’ll just have to deal with that,” said Strashok. “I’ll talk to anyone about it.”
The club is currently pending approval from the SU.
Lung and Strashok were among a group of students who unsuccessfully tried to start a realpolitik club at the U of C earlier this year. Realpolitik, often called political realism, refers to political activities mostly concerned with power and the material and practical consequences of applying it.
Lung attributed their failure with the realpolitik club to a lack of motivation amongst some of the club’s executives.