If you play college football, should you be forced to forfeit your Second Amendment rights?
Assuming you have no criminal record and no mental health issues that disqualify you from owning a gun under federal law, if you play college football, are you for some reason less trustworthy, less responsible or less worthy of protection than your non-football-playing college classmates?
And should publicly funded institutions of higher learning be allowed to deny college football players their right to keep and bear arms to defend themselves?
That’s exactly what some schools in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) are doing.
Matthew Stevens, a reporter with the Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama reported last week that in a recent media teleconference, the newspaper asked 12 of the 14 head coaches in the SEC about their policies regarding players’ firearm ownership. (Time limitations on the teleconference prevented the newspaper from asking Alabama’s head coach, Nick Saban, or LSU head coach, Les Miles, about their programs’ policies.)
Four of the head coaches—Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M; Dan Mullen of Mississippi State; Derek Mason of Vanderbilt; and Mark Stoops of the University of Kentucky—all said they have team policies restricting player from having handguns, or “weapons,” as a condition of being members of their schools’ football programs.
According to Stevens, 13 of the 14 schools in the SEC—all of them except Texas A&M—restrict the possession of firearms on campus.
But at some of those schools, team policies bar players from owning handguns, period—even if they live off campus and abide by all applicable laws.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, for example, said “We do not allow any handguns” to be owned by players on the team. “I’ve made it very clear to them that I do not want them owning a handgun, even if they have a legal permit for it,” Stoops reportedly said. “They obviously can never have a handgun on campus, but I make it my policy to tell them no guns ... we definitely should not need a gun living in Lexington, Ky. So that’s my policy.”
According to Will Rierson at CampusReform.org, even Texas A&M’s football team has a policy against players owning handguns—despite the fact that this year Texas became the 11th state to lift its lockout on Concealed Handgun License holders being armed on public university campuses. As Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin put it—perhaps unaware of the state’s new law—“We have a no-handguns policy and have had that since we’ve been here.” “I’ve made it very clear to them that I do not want them owning a handgun, even if they have a legal permit for it.” — Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops
Missouri head coach Barry Odom reportedly said his players were also barred from owning handguns as a condition of being on the team, but a spokesperson later walked back Odom’s comments.
A statement issued by the school said, “What Coach (Odom) was referring to when he talked about ‘not allowing it in the program’ was the policy that states that if a player has a legal issue, and an illegal gun is involved as part of that legal issue, then the player is removed from the program. If a player has gone through the legal channels to properly own a gun, then that’s their personal choice.”
What emerges from all of this is that there appears to be a widespread prejudice, if not official policy, among SEC college football programs—and likely some in other conferences, if they were investigated—against players exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Texas A&M, Mississippi State and the University of Kentucky are all public universities at least partially subsidized by taxpayer dollars. Vanderbilt, while private, is also partially funded by your federal income taxes through the National Institutes of Health. Yet all four schools bar their football players from owning handguns—a right protected by the Second Amendment—even if they live off campus, even if they have Right-to-Carry permits, and even if they abide by all the laws.
Students, parents—and for that matter, all taxpayers—should ask themselves:
Should football coaches be allowed to deny their players the constitutional freedoms and protections that are guaranteed to the rest of their students?
Should universities that are publicly funded be allowed to force football players to forfeit their rights as a matter of institutional policy?
And what effect will these prohibitionist policies have on the values, beliefs and attitudes toward the right to keep and bear arms among college students who, after all, are the future leaders of this country?
Republican Missouri state Sen. Brian Munzlinger may have summed it up best when he told the Missouri Times: “It seems to me that the university and the MU Athletic Department believe these student citizens may be just football players. But in Missouri and in the United States of America, these students are still citizens, and no publicly funded institution should have a policy that overrides our Missouri laws, our state constitution or the U.S. Constitution.”