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Students Aim for Gun Rights on Campus

James Madison University senior Leah Sargent, 20, and instructor Carlos Santillan, 45, examine her target at the Top Gun Shooting Range in Harrisonburg, Va. The shooting session was part of a gun rights week at JMU, aimed at showing how guns could protect students when attacked, as during the Virginia Tech massacre.
James Madison University senior Leah Sargent, 20, and instructor Carlos Santillan, 45, examine her target at the Top Gun Shooting Range in Harrisonburg, Va. The shooting session was part of a gun rights week at JMU, aimed at showing how guns could protect students when attacked, as during the Virginia Tech massacre. (Michael Reilly - Daily News-Record)

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"See? One person, maybe two, got shot and it's over," Deehan said proudly. "This is the reality with concealed carry. It's over." Clouston and Sargent high-fived each other.

He counseled the students on their classroom shooting technique: "It would be better to drop to the floor on your belly and shoot up."

But Omar Samaha, one of the organizers of the opposing Students for Gun Free Schools whose sister was killed in the massacre, said that these reenactments, in addition to being "disrespectful," prove nothing.

"The way they're setting it up, these students are aware of what's about to happen. It's not like that in a crisis," he said. "When you talk to survivors, they say there's no time to react. There's complete chaos. They say that if there were guns in the classroom, it just would have been so much worse. A lot of students are missing the point here, which is prevention, not reaction."

Samaha's group recently posted videos on YouTube of very different scenarios with guns on campus. In a short film titled "The Bully," a classroom tussle turns deadly when three students whip out handguns and point them at fellow students' heads.

Yesterday's demonstration, in a classroom at the Top Gun Shooting Range in Harrisonburg, was just one of a number of Virginia Tech classroom shooting scenarios that gun rights advocates had been staging all week at JMU, using Nerf guns, plastic toy rifles and fingers. Organizers said more than 100 students and community members came to hear lectures about gun rights, watch the two Virginia Tech scenarios and spend a sunny day shooting actual pistols at the firing range.

"We want people to understand that guns can be safe and guns can be fun," Katie Cannon said. The College Republicans' event coordinator helped organize the gun rights week.

Sargent, a senior music education major, donned thick plastic glasses and screwed bright orange earplugs into her ears. "The line is hot!" organizers called out. "Fire away!" She picked up a Glock 19 9mm and stared down its sights. Pa CHA. The gun discharged. Bull's-eye.

"This is really fun. I loved it," Sargent said after her target shooting session. "I'm really proud of this." She unfurled her target, with a cluster of holes directly in the center of the bull's-eye. "She's a natural," one of the instructors said admiringly. She tucked her long blond hair behind one ear and smiled. A spent bullet casing dropped to the floor.


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