LA Community College drops NRA class after six years due to new regs

Campus Reform Reporter
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Faculty at Los Angeles Community College (LACC) have canceled a longstanding National Rifle Association (NRA) class thanks to new restrictions laid down by the school’s board of trustees. 

The new regulations, which apply to all nine campuses of the LACC system, will begin this year, and ban all firearms, including those that are “non-operational and in the instructional setting” from school grounds.  

The rules make an exception for “non-operational” weapons used in “theatrical performances,” but not for the non-credit firearms class which the school has offered in conjunction with the NRA for the last six years.

Board of Trustees Vice President Scott Svonkin, author the resolution that ushered in the new rules, told Campus Reform last Monday he believes school’s have no place teaching students how to use guns —but that its educators and faculty do have a responsibility to “promote gun control.”

“We should make sure that students don't come to campus being afraid to run into somebody with a gun,” Svonkin said.

He argued it was necessary to ban  “non-operational” guns, because although they could not hurt anyone, they could scare students.

Gerry Koehler, the teacher of the now cancelled gun classes at Los Angeles Pierce College for the past six years, however, said the idea that a student might “run into somebody with a gun” due to NRA classes was ridiculous — considering they were taught in a locked classroom with the shades pulled down.

He added that the classes were incredibly popular, with each session filling up and resulting in another full overflow class.

Koehler said the college informed him last month that he would not be teaching his summer class — which was supposed to begin on

August 3 — after a member of the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council complained about it.

“They said, ‘Let’s cancel it for the summer, and hopefully it will die down and we can continue it for the fall,’” he said.

Koehler said neither he nor any other gun advocates were invited to the meeting in which the class was cancelled. He said  he did not find out  about the cancellation until Sunday — in an email from an NRA lawyer — that the classes were cancelled permanently.

Koehler said he called the president of Pierce, Dr. Kathleen Burke-Kelly, to ask if plastic model guns were included in the “non-operational” ban, or if he could use one to keep teaching the class.

“She said they are not allowed to even have the mention of the world ‘gun’ in their campus catalog, which I find utterly ridiculous and a total violation of the First Amendment … now this is a First Amendment issue," he said.

Burke-Kelly did not respond to a request for comment from Campus Reform, but a search of the course catalog revealed the word “gun” does not appear.

Svonkin, who authored the resolution, told Campus Reform that he himself was not sure what “non-operational” meant.

“You know, I’m not an expert in guns,” he said.

Koehler said his dealings with the board on the issue made him believe that the real purpose of resolution was not safety, but political opposition to the NRA.

Svonkin openly expressed negative views of the organization during his interview with Campus Reform.

“I believe that the NRA's goal is to promote gun ownership, and that guns lead to deaths,” he said. “So, not having the NRA teach classes, not having the NRA classes on our campuses, is a good thing.”

“I’m much happier with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department protecting our students and our staff and our faculty than having some random person who took a three-hour class and thinks that they’re Dirty Harry,” he added.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @KTimpf