Campus News

Pro-gun speaker event goes on without a hitch despite Cocks Not Glocks protest

Conservative author and pundit Katie Pavlich visited campus Tuesday to speak about second amendment rights and gun use for self-defense. 

Image By: Jon Yoon

Gun-rights advocate and conservative pundit Katie Pavlich visited campus to educate students on the second amendment and gun use for self-defense without any disruption from protesters.

This week, the Board of Regents approved a new policy that would suspend or expel students who disrupt speakers. The policy mirrors a bill from the state’s Legislature that was drafted in response to interruptions of conservative speaker events on UW campuses last year.

Young Americans for Freedom, the student organization that hosted Pavlich, has seen protesters at their events in the past. On Tuesday, Pavlich addressed students on responsible gun use and the importance of the second amendment as part of her “Trigger Warning” speaking spot.

A small, 20-person demonstration by Cocks Not Glocks, a student organization that originated at the University of Texas to protest campus carry, occurred outside the event. The group promotes the idea that it is just as absurd to have a gun on campus as it is to publicly carry a sex toy.

The protesters handed out dildos to passersby and chanted sayings like “this is what democracy looks like.” Kat Kerwin, the group’s leader, said Pavlich is a problematic speaker because her rhetoric is “based on the misbelief that women would not be sexually assaulted if they started carrying firearms.”

“We are here to ensure people know that Katie Pavlich is speaking and to make sure people are thinking about gun violence prevention and thinking about what it means to be assaulted on this campus,” Kerwin said.

Pavlich, in turn, addressed the protest in her speech, calling it sexual harassment for interfering with her work and creating a hostile workplace or educational environment.

“We hear a whole lot about rape culture on college campuses. If you want to see what that looks like … [it’s] lots of men waving around dildos to protest me, a woman, on a college campus,” Pavlich said.

“Did the protest take into account how victims of sexual assault might feel walking past the display of male genitalia?” Pavlich questioned.

According to Kerwin, the dildo-centered protest was an attempt to attract attention to gun violence.

“We aren’t here to disrupt the speech,” Kerwin said. “We need to be thinking about how we can move forward and continue to push our rights as protesters.”

Pavlich’s speech centered on the need to have well-rounded arguments surrounding the use of guns for self-defense on liberal campuses, especially for women who want to defend themselves from attackers.

She recalled walking home at night during her college days and the fear she felt because she was not allowed to bring her gun on campus.

Pavlich also touched on the question of gun control in preventing mass shootings. There’s not a government solution to “every violent action that an individual decides to make,” she said.

She also highlighted the economic benefit the gun industry has on the country, bringing in $52.1 billion in revenue, she said. Pavlich distinguished between two types of gun culture that she says are misconstructed by the media: Responsible gun owners and irresponsible gun owners.

“There is an overwhelming respectful gun culture in America, and it should be celebrated,” Pavlich said. “The violent culture is the one that should be condemned and changed.”

She suggested students who want to educate their peers with preconceived notions about gun rights should take them to a shooting range to show them what it’s like.

“Nobody has the right to turn you into a victim or take your rights away because you’re uncomfortable,” Pavlich said.

Overall, the event remained peaceful and allowed the expression of a wide range of viewpoints, according to a statement from UW-Madison.

Kerwin said the regents’ free speech proposal “definitely changed the way” the group protested this event, but that it is still important to push the limits of campus protests. She said the group will “save disrupting protests” for speakers who they think are inciting violence.

Sam Nesovanovic contributed to this report.

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