Texas students can now bring guns to class. "Cocks Not Glocks" is bringing dildos instead.

Source: Cocks Not Glocks/Twitter

Ana Lopez, a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, knows a dildo won't do much to protect her from a gunman. But like many other gun-control advocates, Lopez doesn't think a "good guy with a gun" will do much to keep her safe during a shooting, either.

"Two guns don't make a right," Lopez, vice-president of Students Against Campus Carry, said. "Do you expect a bunch of frat boys to defend us against an armed gunman?"

It's a question that's come up countless times over the past year, across Texas and in national headlines, as colleges and universities throughout the state prepare to enforce SB 11, a new law that allows students with concealed handgun licenses to bring firearms on campus. At liberal UT-Austin — which observed the 50th anniversary of the UT Tower shooting, one of the first gun massacres on a college campus, the same day SB 11 took effect — the university's own policies for complying with the law require that guns be allowed in classrooms.

That's precisely why students like Lopez will be bringing sex toys to class with them, too. As students return to the state's flagship university for the start of classes Wednesday, hundreds of undergraduates plan to strap colorful dildos to their book bags, in a protest known as Cocks Not Glocks. Reasoning that if some UT students have firearms in their backpacks, others might as well strap fake dicks to their own, the Cocks Not Glocks protesters hope to demonstrate the absurdity of campus regulations that ban obscene images when students are allowed to carry deadly weapons with them to class.

"We live in extremely absurd times, and absurd times call for absurd measures," Jessica Jin, a UT alum who orchestrated the protest, said. "Politicians have thrown reason out the window. Maybe absurdity is the only language they'll understand."

Protestors at the University of Texas at Austin are fighting a law that allows guns in college classrooms — with dildos.
Source: 
Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

Jin's initial idea for Cocks Not Glocks, which she began organizing in October, was intended as a joke, but it quickly picked up steam. More than 10,000 students, alumni and supporters have pledged to join the cause on Facebook, and several sex toy companies have donated dildos to the group. The campaign is meant to highlight why campus carry proponents passed the law in the first place: America's epidemic of gun violence has made people scared for their lives, whether they're packing heat or protesting with strap-ons.

"Concealed carry proponents should be as mad as we are that you can't feel safe at school, or church, or the club. This whole concealed carry thing is a really thin guise of the legislature saying, 'You're on your own. We're not going to do anything else.' That's really frustrating," Jin said.

Though estimates from the university suggest a mere 1% of the UT population has a concealed handgun license, the loose eligibility requirements to get one have done little to quell concerns that gun-related accidents, injuries and deaths will increase. But UT students, staff and faculty also believe the law will create a culture of fear on campus. It is, after all, based on fear in the first place: Proponents of SB 11 have long framed campus carry as a step toward "allowing the same trained adults who carry on a day-to-day basis to protect themselves on college campuses," as state Sen. Brian Birdwell, one of the lawmakers who sponsored the legislation, said in 2013.

"We are not equipped enough to enact this law in a safe way where everyone knows what they're getting into."

UT-Austin has struggled with implementing the law. Students and faculty alike say the university administration has sent ambiguous messages about official campus policies, such as whether professors may include in their syllabi requests that students leave guns at home. According to Lopez, the university has failed to make students aware of what's going on with SB 11, in part because the administration doesn't want to incite more fear.

"Truly, I really do not want to point fingers at the university, because they're trying so hard to fight this," Lopez said. "But the language of emails the university sent to the student body was so ambiguous, students still think it's open carry. We are not equipped enough to enact this law in a safe way where everyone knows what they're getting into. There is that overarching feeling of fear, no matter what people know about the law. Everyone is so fearful, and they really don't know what to do."

The school's administration hasn't been enthusiastic about making campus more hospitable for firearms, to say the least: Both the university's president, Gregory Fenves, and Admiral William McRaven, the chancellor of UT system, have publicly opposed the law, expressing concerns concealed carry will make the campus "less safe."

While private schools have the choice to opt out of enforcing the law, public institutions like UT-Austin have no choice but to comply, lest the school face legal and financial penalties. As such, Fenves organized a working group of faculty, staff and students last year to develop recommendations for UT's campus carry policies, which he tasked with developing policies that maintain campus safety. But the group also had to maintain the integrity of SB 11, which explicitly prohibits a general ban on concealed carry on campus.

The policies Fenves eventually adopted, which UT's board of regents amended slightly in July, include classrooms in the list of spaces where CHL holders can bring their guns, which must include a chambered round of ammunition and be hidden in a holster, but exclude areas such as laboratories, residence halls, and single-occupancy faculty offices. Almost immediately, professors and parents came out against the classroom policy and began organizing protests; some faculty have gone so far as to leave the university because of their opposition to students bringing guns into learning environments.

Ironically, faculty members' concerns about campus safety, and their desire to restrict guns on campus as a result, is what has led to UT's most pressing campus carry conundrum: whether classrooms should have been listed as a gun-exclusion zone. According to Steven Goode, a criminal law professor at UT Law and former chair of the campus carry working group, allowing the school to ban guns in classrooms would have violated the spirit of the law, and therefore couldn't be included in UT's rules despite nearly universal consensus about keeping guns out of classes.

"It would be a reasonable rule to exclude guns from the classroom, but the law was and is the president can make reasonable rules and regulations so long as they do not have the effect of generally prohibiting campus carry," Goode said. He and the working group determined that "if UT were to exclude handguns from classrooms, that would have the effect of generally prohibiting campus carry" because "the main activity for most of our 50,000 students is going to class," he said.

Anti-campus carry protestors and Gun Free UT staged a mock shooting in December.
Source: 
Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

The issue has become a focus for faculty who oppose the law, in particular. Last fall, UT professors, staff and parents formed Gun Free UT, an advocacy group set on repealing SB 11 that promotes itself as being "armed with reason." In July, three UT professors affiliated with Gun Free UT — Mia Carter, Lisa Moore and Jennifer Lynn Glass — filed a lawsuit against the university, seeking a preliminary injunction that would allow them to ban guns in their classes this fall, the Texas Tribune reported. 

In their complaint, the professors state the school's policy allowing concealed, loaded guns in classrooms violates their "First Amendment rights to academic freedom." All teach courses that involve discussion of controversial topics, typically regarding feminist issues, and believe the university's policy will have a chilling effect on academic discussion, as the possible presence of guns in class could stop anyone — a professor, a peer — from saying or doing anything to upset someone who is potentially armed.

The very possibility of someone bringing concealed weapons to class, "impedes my and other professors' ability to create a daring, intellectually active, mutually supportive and engaged community of thinkers," Carter, an associate professor of English, said in an email, citing her declaration for the complaint.

According to Carter, students face any number of stress triggers on a daily basis, and can qualify for a CHL at 21 — an age when mental health issues often present themselves. Ultimately, though, faculty, staff and students who oppose campus carry fear guns could increase inadvertent injuries as well as targeted violence on campus, whether it's directed toward professors or students.

"I am not afraid of our students; I fear for them, I am worried about accidents," Carter said in an email to Mic. "All of the suicide by gun incidents I have heard about while at UT have involved young men. We are already living amidst an epidemic of gun violence; public health and safety concerns are rational, common sense issues."

"People should feel pissed off about the guns, but they're not as pissed off as they should be."

Days before classes were set to resume, however, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel denied the professors' request for a preliminary injunction. The decision has left them to do the same thing as the rest of the UT community: wait for students to show up on the first day of school without knowing whether or which of their pupils or peers are armed.

While Carter, Moore and Glass remain focused on their lawsuit against UT and the state, and the rest of Gun Free UT continues petitioning to repeal the law, the likelihood of overturning campus carry in an open-carry state seems low. But for those in the UT community who feel they are walking into danger zones when they show up for Comp Lit, or who worry a deadly round could be fired when their classmates put their backpacks down at their desks, the stakes are too high not to keep fighting — even if the weapons they're using aren't handguns or AK-47s, but signatures and sex toys.

"Hopefully we can convince people to leave toys on their backpacks as long as there are guns in backpacks," Jin said. "People should feel pissed off about the guns, but they're not as pissed off as they should be. You want guns everywhere? We'll put dildos everywhere and see how comfortable you are. Let's get it out in the open. Let's think about what we see as 'normal.'"

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Jenny Kutner

Jenny Kutner is a senior reporter at Mic, covering feminism, reproductive justice and sexual violence. She is a native Texan based in New York. Send tips or friendly messages to jenny@mic.com.

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