The Concordia Sports Shooting Association loses CSU status in campus-vote last month.
Concordia University Sports Shooting Association (CUSSA) lost a campus-wide referendum to become a CSU club, on Nov. 15. The debate over allowing sports shooting clubs within the school came to an end when 55.6 per cent of respondents voted against it.
Proponents of the CUSSA argued that guns are not exclusively used to commit atrocities.
Last July, the CUSSA formed after a group of students applied to become an official club registered with the CSU. Almost immediately, the club encountered difficulties with councillors conflicted about authorizing it. Marin Algattus, the CSU’s Internal Affairs Coordinator, oversaw the committee responsible for approving sporting clubs like the CUSSA, which conditionally approved the club for a one-year trial.
She said councillors felt conflicted about authorizing the club, given the ongoing history of gun violence, but remained ideologically neutral.
“We had to put aside our biases even though a few councillors felt hesitant about approving the [CUSSA], we decided the club deserved an opportunity,” Algattus said.
Following the CSU’s conditional approval at the beginning of the semester, the CUSSA hosted four events: two days of training followed by a weekend at the firing range. James Hanna, president of the CUSSA and a CSU councillor, said attendance was greater than expected and the events attracted people from a variety of backgrounds. “We wanted our club to be inclusive and not be that stereotype of conservative white guys going out and shooting guns,” he said. “Everything about it was fun and safe.”
However, in an unprecedented move, a CSU councillor proposed a referendum minutes after pulling out from the committee which initially approved of the CUSSA. Minutes from the meeting show that besides Hanna’s abstention due to his conflict of interest, councillors voted unanimously in favour of sending the club to a referendum. The decision cited the shooting at “[Concordia’s] sister school Dawson,” and ongoing gun violence in the United States as sufficient criteria for a vote.
Hanna believes personal ideologies influenced the CSU’s reluctance towards approving the CUSSA. He said that the CUSSA is a sporting club, not unlike a football or archery club but did acknowledge that the use of firearms could cause controversy.
“I understand why some people objected to our club, but there is a communist club at Concordia, and many people would object to that, but they still get funding,” Hanna said.
Hanna opposed the referendum and said it created a new precedent for future clubs applying for CSU recognition. He said that other controversial clubs, such as those for political parties or movements, never required a campus-wide referendum to obtain recognition. Additionally, Hanna said the CSU’s initial conditional approval and then referendum was unusual.
“First [the CSU] gave us conditional approval, which they never do, and then they removed it through a referendum,” Hanna said. “Is every new club now going to need the support of the student body? It doesn’t make sense.”
However, Algattus said the referendum is not creating a new precedent. She said that CSU councillors are neither influenced by politics nor ideology and that the councillors she worked with are dedicated to neutrality. Algattus said the referendum is an extraordinary option for an exceptional situation.
“Ultimately the councillors decided that because of all the school shootings in the U.S., the student body should be involved,” she said. “I don’t think this is setting a precedent like some have suggested because it is a really unique situation.”
Patrick Oliver, a Concordia student, voted against the club in the referendum. He said that as an American, he is all too familiar with the threat of school shootings. Oliver said the CUSSA’s claims of being an athletic club had no impact on his vote. “A lacrosse team is a sporting club too, but people aren’t going to go there and learn how to use a weapon, it’s unnecessary,” said Oliver.
In the meantime, Hanna said he is dedicated to keeping the club operating and plans further events despite the lack of CSU recognition. “We are still going to the range and will use every avenue to become approved like any other club,” said Hanna. “Guns are never near campus, they are always stored at the range — we are teaching people a sport, not to go out like maniacs and kill.”
Regardless, students like Oliver do not believe approving the club is a risk worth taking. He said that students interested in going to a firing range should do so on their own time and without the recognition of a student organization like CSU.
“Weaponry and schools never go well together,” said Oliver. “Imagine if someone learned how to shoot from a university-approved club and came back to that same university and used them against students.”
Graphic by @sundaeghost