Friends and roommates, juniors Andrew Breza and Ken Stauff share an interest in Second Amendment rights and range shooting. After a failed attempt two years ago to start the GW Gunslingers, the pair began organizing the Colonial Militia, a group concerned with gun rights advocacy and shooting for pleasure.
"We chose (the name) Colonial Militia to knock on the Colonial Army, but also the militia is basically what won this country," Stauff said. "We are the Colonials here, so why not expand upon that?"
The Colonial Militia has not yet been approved as an official student organization, as GW officials continue to demand that the club require members undergo background checks before they can go to a shooting range in Virginia.
"We had a meeting two days (after the Virginia Tech. incident) and put out a statement to the club members on Facebook. One of the main reasons for this group is education," Stauff said.
The club plans to hold debates about guns rights, pass out pamphlets and provide for an interest not served on campus.
"College Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, none of them have actually made Second Amendment rights an issue." Breza said. "Right now with everything going on with D.C. guns rights issues it's a great time to raise awareness," .
There is currently debate in the District about a 1977 D.C. law banning private ownership of handguns. In March, a federal appeals court argued that the Second Amendment which allows the right to bear arms, does not exclusively apply to militias and banning private ownership of handguns is violating that amendment. The city is appealing this decision, arguing that public safety is a primary concern.
"There are a lot of people on campus who have never actually heard a rational, intelligent person discussing the benefits of gun rights and ownership," Breza said. "There are a lot of people from big cities where the only people who have guns are criminals and cops. There are many people who have never grown up with an ethic of responsible gun ownership. And there are those that have. We encourage anyone to show up."
The group aims to show people that those committing acts of gun violence are not generally trained and licensed to shoot, nor are they educated in the proper handling of a firearm.
"People have a knee-jerk reaction against firearms," Breza said. "I can guarantee you we aren't going to have nearly the injury rate that our athletic teams have."
To put their philosophies on gun safety and shooting enjoyment to practice, they will take trips to Blue Ridge Arsenal, a shooting range located in Virginia. After showing proof of training, interested individuals at the shooting range can rent weapons and shoot at set targets.
The club does not want to give the school any reason to deny its approval for official status. They have spent time working with UPD, Student Activities Center, the Office of Risk Management and similar groups from other schools to ensure they are addressing all possible issues.
Stauff and Breza stressed the Colonial Militia is nonpartisan and hopes to appeal to an audience that goes beyond party lines and seeks a more educated and rational perspective.
"I invite your most ardent foe of firearms not only to come to our invites but to come shoot sometime," Breza said. "The more clearly we can draw the distinction between responsible, legal gun ownership and the people who are murdering and robbing with firearms, the more progress we can make."