The Young Americans for Liberty at Truman State University hosted an AR-15 giveaway last Thursday, with signs reading “Make Liberty Win” and “Come and Take It.” The raffle is part of a country-wide event that was approved by the YAL national director to be conducted on college campuses.
Though the drawing takes place across the U.S., some confusion was still apparent within event promotions and on site.
“I didn’t make the advertisement, but I think it was a little misleading,” Brett Heumann, sophomore and president of Truman’s YAL chapter, said. “I know a few of my fraternity brothers were confused, especially the ones who were not pro Second Amendment were a bit angry about it. They thought it was kind of dangerous.”
The AR-15 has garnered heightened attention over recent years in regard to its usage in mass shootings, most notably those of Aurora, Newtown, Orlando and San Bernardino. In conjunction with ongoing legislation proposing to ban firearms as a response, many voiced their skepticism on social media and news comment sections regarding student safety.
Uncertainties included why such a high-caliber weapon was chosen, whether background checks would be imposed and age restrictions of entrants.
“I don’t know the exact reason, but I would assume gun owners are not just gonna want to win a hand gun,” Heumann explained. “They’re catering toward people who love guns, so they’re gonna want to have a beefier gun to give away.”
Heumann said that while the group generally supports the freedom for all to bear arms, the contest abides by federal and state law with respect to participant limits. Heumann also described diversity among member opinions. For instance, some might be in favor of background checks, but not abolishing the Second Amendment entirely.
“YAL as an organization is nonpartisan, but we support constitutional limited government,” sophomore Naomi Mathew, YAL’s Missouri state chair, said. “So in terms of gun control, there isn’t any specific policy brief that is exactly what YAL wants, but in general, we are always favoring more freedom for individuals rather than government control.”
Among the apprehensions expressed over social media and otherwise, a recurring question was of its intent. Mathew said the event aimed to raise awareness on important issues as well as recruit for YAL’s Truman chapter.
Heumann added that the event was supposed to show support for the Second Amendment, reflecting the Libertarian perspective on potential dangers when guns are accessible to government but not citizens.
“I just don’t engage in the comments,” Heumann said. “I would hope that people would ask questions to us first and maybe talk to us one-on-one before posting and getting all upset.”
The two leaders of Truman’s YAL chapter determined that the event achieved its goals, citing overall coverage, high turnout and wide-range feedback.
“I think a lot of controversial events get a big response,” Heumann noted, “so more people hear about it and that gets our message out.”