The Aldrich Alert
Gary Aldrich

A Publication of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty

Ohio Rifles Stand as Symbols

April 28, 2001

by Gary Aldrich - Volume 2, Issue 23

This article appeared on on Thursday, April 25, 2002.

On May 4, 1970, during a noontime antiwar rally on the campus of Kent State University, a number of Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on unarmed students. When the shooting stopped, four students lay dead. A photographer took a picture of a weeping student cradling the head of her dying friend. That compelling photograph was carried on the front page of many of our nation’s newspapers and burned into the conscience of America.

It became a symbol of violence and antiwar sentiment. However, that symbol did not capture the burning of the Kent State ROTC building by violent antiwar protesters two nights before. The picture also misses the rioting of campus radicals, such as the members of the Students for a Democratic Society who may have incited the burning of school property and other acts of violence against school and state authorities.

Thus, an incomplete picture used as a symbol saddened a war-weary nation and turned more citizens against the war in Vietnam. Regardless of how it happened or who was responsible, few can look at that horrifying picture today and not be swept up in feelings of regret and anger that young lives were lost in such a tragic manner.

In 1970, Kent State’s deadly violence came out the barrel of a National Guardsman’s rifle, and that rifle became a symbol used against war and perceived government abuse. In 2002, another symbolic rifle at another Ohio university is causing turmoil of a different kind.

A professor of journalism at the University of Ohio was recently ordered to remove a Civil War relic from his office wall, but has protested because he thinks the university’s policy is silly and unrealistic. Some school administrators and liberal professors are upset because he has opinions different from theirs, and they’ve found a way to get even with him. They’ve set out to "get him," and sadly, it appears they have the power to do it.

Professor Patrick S. Washburn now awaits his rhetorical hanging – and perhaps the end of his professional career – simply because he’s willing to stand up for his rights.

His great-grandfather’s rifle, long ago rendered inoperable, is considered to be in violation of a "workplace violence" policy regarding weapons of any kind on campus, even those used for display. Someone, who visited his office or heard about his rifle lodged a complaint, and soon, armed campus police were at his door. They strongly suggested that he remove the display or face disciplinary actions, including possible dismissal from employment.

The professor, a practicing conservative, is angry and determined to exercise his rights to free expression and has decided to fight back. Aware that the Ohio University football team fires a small cannon at games to signal a touchdown, he has suggested that this weapon – one that actually does work – should also be forbidden if campus policy is followed to the letter.

The cannon is fully operational, and while it’s only used to explode harmless gunpowder, it could be loaded with nails or bolts and shot up into the crowd. By contrast, Professor Washburn’s rifle – also used as a symbol – is nonfunctional and can never be fired.

What causes some otherwise rational people to go off the deep end with nonsensical policies that are obviously selectively enforced? Some suggest that recent school shootings have brought new attention to the age-old problem of violence, especially when it involves firearms on campus.

But, if they are really concerned about violence, how do gun-control fundamentalists reconcile the fact that most major university campuses are rife with violent acts being committed against female students, but so little is done about it?

Put another way: Do you have to die in order to get any attention from campus do-gooders?

Why do gun-control fundamentalists use their passion fighting conservatives who only want to protect their First and Second Amendment rights, but find little time to make sure coeds are not raped or assaulted on campus? It’s a sad and well-known fact that women make easy targets for sexual attacks by violent predators simply because they usually cannot protect themselves.

What does the average sexual predator know about college campuses? First, there is only a token police presence to protect anybody. Second, everybody except the police are ordered to keep weapons of all kinds off campus. And third, the campus is amply stocked with hundreds, if not thousands, of attractive young females, each one a potential target.

If you were a rapist, where would you go to select your next target? Willy Sutton, a well-known bank robber was once asked why he robbed banks. "Because that’s where the money is," he said, obviously amused that anybody would ask such a dumb question. What was not reported was that Sutton, as well as other violent criminals, always cased a potential target and stayed away from those situations where it was likely that victims could put up any fight!

There’s no evidence that Professor Washburn is violent. On the contrary, there’s plenty of evidence that he’s a caring individual concerned about the rights of others. He’s hardworking and law-abiding, but his sin may be in attempting to practice his conservative values on a very liberal campus. Would he chase a would-be rapist away from a victimized coed with his non-operational rifle? I would be willing to bet he’s brave enough to try.

But Ohio University in its wisdom has decided that the mere appearance of a rifle, even an inoperable one owned by a normal, mature professional man with a good reputation, poses some threat to the university population.

One can only wonder if the events surrounding that tragic shooting on May 4, 1970, on another Ohio University campus has somehow distorted the thinking of those in power at the university. Or, maybe a few of those leftist antiwar protesters have made it to positions of power at OU and now punish any conservatives they can find in their sights?

It would be a refreshing change to find school administrators who think critically and logically when it comes to issues of self-protection for the young people parents entrust to their care.

A question for OU officials: How many students were shot last year with inoperable Civil War relics? How many female students were mugged, battered, robbed, or raped? How many of those innocent victims were allowed, or even encouraged to defend themselves?