PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Two men who said they would bring guns with them to a state university campus to protest a policy banning firearms made their case with words, not weapons, yesterday.
Bradley Jardis, a former police officer, and Army veteran Tommy Mozingo showed up at Plymouth State University in suits and clearly without the loaded rifles they had planned to tote. If they had brought weapons, they faced being charged with contempt of a court order issued Thursday barring them from bringing weapons onto any state university campus in New Hampshire.
Jardis told a crowd of about 80 students, supporters, and security officers that he was glad university officials had obtained the court order.
“We wouldn’t have drawn this much attention without it,’’ Jardis said.
Several students thanked him for coming and voiced their support. Others criticized him for disrupting the last day of classes before final exams next week.
“I think it’s rude they come here at this time and disrupt my education,’’ said Danielle Aucoin, a voice major from Massachusetts whose voice lesson was canceled.
A number of students in the crowd scoffed when Jardis said, “I had no idea this would be disruptive.’’
Peter Eyre of Keene wore a sweatshirt bearing the slogan, “Badges don’t grant extra rights,’’ and said PSU is public property and those who attend should have the right to bear arms.
Plymouth State president Sara Jayne Steen told students in an e-mail Thursday that they would not be penalized for not going to class if they feared for their safety.
She said that the court order might not prevent the pair from showing up and that they might have sympathizers who could show up with weapons.
“If you are uncomfortable, please make the best decision for yourself about being on campus,’’ Steen wrote. Staff and faculty were given the option of taking a vacation day.
Jardis and Mozingo maintain that the university system’s policy banning firearms flies in the face of state law and the state and federal constitutions. They say they look forward to returning to Grafton County Superior Court Tuesday to argue against a permanent injunction barring them from bringing weapons onto state campuses.
Jardis would not say if he was carrying a concealed firearm. Instead, he said several times, “I just want to point out that no one knows if I’m carrying a gun.’’
“Yeah, and that’s terrifying,’’ replied one female student.
English professor Robin DeRosa and a handful of students and staff held signs in support of the campus ban on guns. Several of Jardis’s and Mozingo’s supporters mocked the group and a sign that said “Thank you for not shooting me.’’
Police and college security officers were stationed in and around the campus, but authorities did not interact with the two gun advocates.
Jardis, 31, is a former Epping police officer who resigned last year. He had been suspended from the force in 2009 for a year because he publicly advocated the legalization of marijuana and other illicit drugs. Mozingo, 30, said he served in the Army from 2002 to 2006 and was medically discharged after a parachuting accident during training. He said he is a full-time activist.
Earlier in the week, on a website called freekeene.com, Jardis began publicizing his and Mozingo’s intention to come to campus to distribute literature with loaded rifles slung over their shoulders. After discussions with university officials and lawyers midweek, Jardis blogged on the website that he and Mozingo would affix trigger locks to their guns as show of respect for the dialogue taking place. University officials then obtained the restraining order.
The issue of guns on campuses is stirring debate at the State House, as well. The House votes in January on a bill that would give the Legislature control over regulating weapons. It would prohibit entities like colleges from banning weapons on their campuses.
After Republicans took control of the House and Senate last year, lawmakers voted to ease gun regulations, including allowing them in the State House complex.