By Shelby Brown–

Two dozen gun advocates – some students – walked the perimeter of Belknap campus March 31. U of L student and organizer Aaron Spalding considered the highly criticized open carry firearm education walk a success.

“I’m not advocating to carry an AR-15 into a classroom. It’s to advocate licensed concealed carry holders to be able to protect themselves on campus,” Spalding said.

Spalding cited off-campus crime, lack of ULPD “manpower” and faulty emergency systems as reasons he wants to change university gun policy. While walking openly with weapons, the group advocates for campus concealed carry, which is not allowed.

“I think students should take a more active role in their own self defense,” Spalding said.

Some students did not agree with the sentiments of the walk. Conversations began on the sidewalks and social media.

Marty Mohr thought the group’s guns served more for intimidation purposes.

“It was clearly an effort to … put themselves in a dominant position,” Mohr said. “I think if they wanted a mature and adult conversation about gun ownership, they didn’t need to show up with their guns. The only difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun is a bad day.”

Haeli Spears supports the second amendment right but disagrees with the walk’s timing.

“I think it’s really insensitive to the mass shootings that have happened on college campuses,” Spears said.

Spalding said the walk received backlash after U of L student Savannah Walker died in a shooting at the Tim Faulkner Gallery. Spalding said the open carry walk was scheduled before the gallery shooting.

“Other than her being a student, there’s really no connection between our walk and that,” Spalding said. “I don’t feel it’s respectful for me to drag her death into it.”

Student organizer Ilya Chernyavskiy said students are left “defenseless by the university policy” against events like the gallery shooting.

U of L’s Early Learning Campus emailed parents that children would be kept inside during the walk.

“While the event is expected to be peaceful, we will be limiting our use of outdoor spaces that day to ensure the safety of all of our children,” Professor Brian Weinberg said in the email.

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee issued a statement supporting the University’s Deadly Weapons-Destructive Devices Policy. The policy does not allow deadly weapons on properties owned, leased, operated or controlled by U of L. The committee also expressed support of prohibiting possession of weapons on school properties.

“As faculty, we have primary responsibility for the education of the students at the University of Louisville, and we firmly believe that ensuring a safe, weapons-free campus is an essential foundation to the mission of providing an excellent educational experience,” the statement said. 

Photo by Dustin Massengill/ The Louisville Cardinal