By Kourtney Husnick
Exactly two weeks after the Parkland school shooting, gun activist Larry Pratt spoke at “What Do Gun Bans Mean for Freedom?,” an event hosted by conservative student organization Turning Point USA (TPUSA).
Pratt is the executive director of Gun Owners of America, which is a grassroots non-profit lobbying organization with the purpose of preserving and defending the Second Amendment, according to Tiffany Roberts, president of TPUSA’s Cleveland State chapter.
Pratt began his talk at 7 p.m. on Feb. 28 by addressing the shooting in Parkland, Florida. He started off by saying that the 17 people were killed by the only guy with a gun in the building while four sheriff’s deputies stood by outside.
However, according to both NBC News and Fox News, there were three deputies who did not enter the building during the shooting, not four.
While his speech starts with discussion of Parkland, Roberts said that TPUSA started planning Pratt’s visit in late January, almost three weeks before the Florida shooting occurred.
The topic quickly shifted to gun-free zones. Pratt cited statistics showing that all but 2 percent of mass shootings have happened in areas labeled as gun-free zones since 1950.
“What does keep happening is that bodies keep piling up in gun-free zones,” Pratt said. “[Support of gun-free zones is] just a way of thinking that refuses to yield to data.”
Pratt shifted to the United States’ history with guns, addressing events such as the American Revolution, the Bill of Rights and the War of 1812.
He credited Swiss sharpshooters for swaying Germany against invading Switzerland during World War II. However, this reasoning could not be verified. Some arguments do support Pratt’s statement, but others include Switzerland’s mountainous terrain and the country being more beneficial to Germany as neutral ground.
While discussing Andrew Jackson and the War of 1812, Pratt also continuously mistook the year the war ended.
“There were volunteers that fought under future President Andrew Jackson in 1814 in the War of 1812,” said Pratt. “It ended in 1814.”
Both the end of the war and the Battle of New Orleans — which Pratt mentioned several times — occurred in 1815.
After his speech, Pratt took questions from the audience. Cameron Tolbert, a student in the audience, said Pratt gave the impression that violence would solve the problems he discussed. Tolbert asked Pratt if he felt that African Americans should arm themselves for protection against the government.
“In my first question, I felt he was beating around the bush, so when I rephrased it in a more personal manner for the second question, I felt he still didn’t want to comment on whether he even felt my question held validity,” Tolbert said. “His response to my second question — being, in short, that African Americans should seek to control their own neighborhoods — was an uninformed opinion about the ability that minorities have to control their own communities.”
Questions following Tolbert’s included someone asking for a rebuttal against the argument that the Second Amendment exists for the purpose of state militias and whether or not Pratt supports civilian ownership of fully automatic weapons.
Referencing the Militia Act, Pratt answered that Congress clearly intended for citizens to own military guns.
A visiting education student voiced her concerns about arming teachers and placing the defence responsibility with educators. She expressed worry about teachers responding in mass shooting situations when police — who receive training —are not always accurate with their guns.
“Even a suicidal mass murderer wants to kill as many people as possible,” Pratt said. “If he’s confronted with a short end to his criminal enterprise, he’s likely to turn and leave.”
Like Tolbert, she said she felt like her question was not really answered by Pratt.
On the subject of solutions to mass shootings, which commonly does draw questions, Pratt discussed several options throughout his speech and the question and answer portion of the event. These included arming teachers, restricting immigration and having less gun-free zones.
Regardless of some attendees still wanting answers, Roberts said she felt like the event went well.
TPUSA saw 65 people at the event, although a good portion of them did not seem to be Cleveland State students. Some university administrators attended, and some participants discussed their trip from other towns and schools before the event began. There were also numerous questions following Pratt’s speech.
“For those who felt some of their questions were not answered fully, it is important to remember that every speaker is different. While some may give short, few word answers, others use stories and dive deeper into historical context to provide more insight,” Roberts said. “Students are more than welcome to approach us while we are tabling if they want us to provide answers from a different perspective.”