Shane Pope

But it won’t show all the training that police will need to distinguish illegal combatants from legal ones after arriving at a fire fight.

Two gun-rights groups in Austin plan to stage a mock mass shooting in the heart of the city this weekend as a demonstration about open-carry laws.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the groups—DontComply.com and the Texas chapter of Come and Take It America—mean to use actors (playing both victims and perpetrators), fake blood, cardboard weapons, and the sound of gunfire to recreate a crisis-shooting scenario.

“In the wake of yet another mass shooting one thing is clear, Gun Free Zones are killing us,” reads a release on the Facebook page for Come and Take It Texas.

The groups are planning the event on campus at the University of Texas at Austin, where staff and faculty oppose a new state law that extends concealed-carry to the interiors of buildings on public-university campuses. In a cruel turn, the campus-carry law takes effect on August 1, 2016—the 50th anniversary of the Charles Whitman mass shooting from the tower the University of Texas at Austin.

Hundreds of professors have signed a petition protesting the law (including some that taught this writer). The Faculty Council of the University of Texas passed a resolution last month calling for banning guns in classrooms, libraries, residence halls, and other facilities. Under the campus-carry law, university presidents are able to draft limited gun-free zones; University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves convened a task force to address the matter.

Gun-rights groups hold the counterfactual view that, by enabling unrestricted open-carry laws across the U.S., gun owners will minimize the carnage of everyday mass shootings by taking vigilante action. This conservative solution is now practically Scripture for Second Amendment absolutists.

These groups also represent a paradoxical view: that law-abiding gun owners should refuse to follow the law if it changes to restrict gun ownership. While no such restrictions on the right to own guns are being enacted or even seriously suggested anywhere, groups such as DontComply.com and Come and Take It America are organized around anticipating that possibility.

Flaws in logic aside, in one sense, the reenactment planned for Austin doesn’t go far enough. These groups aren’t showcasing all the simple and legal steps taken by these mass shooters to acquire their weapons. Neither does this crisis-theater presentation depict the hundreds of hours of training ostensibly undertaken by self-deputizing gun owners—training that would ensure that they do not accidentally shoot innocent victims (or one another!) while they are firing at mass shooters under chaotic circumstances. Nor would this event seem to track the reaction of law-enforcement officers, forced to distinguish illegal combatants from legal ones after arriving at a fire fight.

Staging a fake mass shooting in a densely populated place like the main campus drag at the University of Texas at Austin would seem to be dangerous for public safety. Ultimately, though, this Austin demonstration sounds downright corny: Hero gun-owners LARPing their fantasies with cardboard rifles. Maybe they should pause and ask University of Texas Chancellor Bill McRaven, the former admiral and Navy SEAL who led the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, what he thinks about campus carry.

Top photo courtesy Shane Pope/Flickr.

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