BLACKSBURG (WSLS 10) – A Virginia Tech student is bringing attention to the school’s gun policy.
Currently, Virginia Tech does not allow any weapons other than pocket knives under four inches in length on campus.
That’s something Senior Ryan Martin would like to see change, and he’s trying to do that with a hunger strike.
Martin says he grew up with guns, and owns many of his own.
He also has a valid Virginia concealed carry permit, but he says it was just in the past year he actually became an advocate for the issue at Tech, and he began by asking to speak with President Sands about the school’s policy.
Martin says nine months have passed since he contacted the president’s office, and that talk never happened.
“President Sands never replied to me, so this semester I kind of wanted to relight that fire in a way and see how we could bring it more into the spotlight,” said Martin.
He’s relighting that fire by going a week without food, and symbolically wearing an empty holster on his hip.
“If I can carry at Moe’s downtown and Chipotle downtown like I do, why can’t I carry 300 feet the other way on-campus?” said Martin.
The University responded Thursday, saying it “respects any student’s right to civil protest”.
That protest is quickly finding supporters on campus, like Freshman Mitchell Perez.
“I think that having a gun policy that allows no guns at all can possibly make the campus less safe,” said Perez.
More than 80 other students like Perez have liked Martin’s Facebook page, but others, like Radford Criminal Justice Professor, Dr. Tod Burke, say, more often than not, guns will not make people safer.
“School shootings, campus shootings are rare. Now we’re hearing a lot about them, because they are happening more often, but in the grand scheme of things, they are rare. What may not be rare is a student to student encounter, a student to professor encounter with a weapon,” said Burke.
Martin says, even if you don’t like guns, Tech’s policy doesn’t even allow students to carry tasers or pepper spray.
“This semester, we’ve had two alleged sexual assaults and they weren’t allowed to have pepper spray so where does that leave us?” said Martin.
Burke says, on a day to day basis, for the majority of people, where it leaves them is in a safer environment.
“I think the risks far outweigh the benefits of having weapons on campus,” said Burke.
Although Martin is protesting by himself, he says on this issue, he’s not standing alone.
“The attention that the issue is getting, I think that wouldn’t be there if people simply disregarded me,” said Martin.
Martin has been protesting in front of the president’s office all week, and plans to be there starting Friday at 6:30 in the morning.
He says he’s endured a lot of ridicule for standing up for what he believes, but he says the support he’s found outweighs all of it.