By Ben Smith, with contributions by Alex Thomas
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - On March 5, The University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Student Congress passed a controversial bill by a hastily maneuvered procedural vote only would severely affect the Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol
Club on campus by raising the requirement obtain funding for purchasing ammunition for
the group from a simple majority to a 3/5 majority vote.
In the days leading up to the vote, there was speculation that
the bill's author, Rep. Austin Root, was possibly passing off his personal dislike for
the group. Many of the other members of the Student Congress believed that he
was discriminating against the Rifle and Pistol
my opinion that there was absolutely discrimination involved.
Individuals in Student Congress have openly expressed their
opinions in taking a stance against Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club
by attempting to stop the funding of ammunition and create
precedent prohibiting this in the future," Brittany Best, the Chair of the Finance Community said.
As the Tar Heel Pistol and Rifle Club's members filed into the
room where the Student Congress was meeting, an email was sent through the Congressional listserve, containing a conversation between Speaker Pro
Temp Connor Brady and Mr. Root. The conversation is a heated
exchange in which Mr. Root admits he is discriminating against
"I do not like funding ammunition," Root said in the Facebook exchange. After
another exchange in the message, he goes on to write,"to clarify I
am ok with my student fees going something that I don't support, so
long as I do not have control over it." He concludes by stating
that, "Since I cannot get other to strike THPRC (Tar Heel Pistol
and Rifle Club) to zero (funds), I want the power to appropriate
funds to THRPC taken away from me, while still, of course, still
remaining on Finance (Committee) and Congress."
Knowing that the email was circulating, Rep. Root and his
colleagues acted fast. As Root's time expired, while he was
introducing the bill, Mr. Brady was writing down the order
of speakers, which had upwards of twenty members of the Student Congress waiting
to speak. The first on the list was Rep. Daniel Rojas, of the off-campus housing district.
Rep. Rojas yielded about 75 seconds to Mr. Root to finish his
introduction. Despite the numerous members of both the Rifle and
Pistol Club and his fellow members waiting to speak, Mr. Rojas moved to close debate and vote. The motion was quickly
seconded, but objections were heard from around the room. Division
was called and the roll call vote commenced. Despite the numerous
objections, the vote passed and the bill was agreed to without
debate. Shocked and stunned, members of the Rifle and Pistol Club
quickly left the room.
Members of the Student Congress who were not allowed to speak were
outraged. Finance Committee Chairwoman Best was yielded the floor in which she admonished
her fellow members.
"I am totally disgusted by the body's decision to
move to previous without allowing for a fair and informative
debate. As elected representatives, it is our duty to speak
for our constituents and allow for their voices and opinions to be
heard. Regardless of how a representative was going to vote,
each of them should have stood up for the rights of their
constituents and given them the opportunity to speak," Best said.
Rep. Nitin Goel of the mid-campus district added, "Had debate been
allowed, I would have listened to my constituents and their
opinions, and may have reconsidered my position."
Rep. Peter McClelland summed up the entire process,
"This is an abominable and disgusting bill meant to persecute an
individual student group, and that representatives did not allow
their constituents a voice is beyond contemptible."
Grant Anastas-King, President of the Rifle and Pistol club
released a statement to the Carolina Review, the campus' conservative magazine, condemning the "shady"
practices of some members of the Student Congress:
I am incredibly
disappointed in the shady actions of Student Congress. Should this
bill get signed into law by the Student Body President, our club
has effectively been prevented from going to the shooting range.
This is a perfect illustration of what a totalitarian regime looks
like. A governing body that is supposed to be representative of
constituents instead broke the rules to pass a discriminatory bill.
I'm sure that not every sponsor of this bill was aware of the true
intentions, but they were not given a chance to be swayed through
debate. Instead, in a violation of procedure, a vote on the bill
without debate was pushed through despite objections from many
Student Congress representatives. This bill was only passed by ONE
vote, and the representatives supporting us as well as the 50+
members of my club in the room never had a chance to have their
voices heard. Here at Carolina, we should be better than this.
The Rifle and Pistol Club has filed a suit against the Student Congress in the Student Supreme Court. The plaintiffs are, Rep. McClelland, Rep. Aristy, Rep. Crayton, and Grant Anastas-King with Speaker Pro-Temp Brady as their counselor.
Reps. Root and Rojas did not return requests for comment.
Ben Smith is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill double majoring in political science and history and a member of UNC's conservative club. Alex Thomas is a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in political science. He is a writer and the online editor for the Carolina Review, as well as he vice chairman of finance for UNC's conservative club.