MOORHEAD, Minn. – Concordia College, a private Lutheran school affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is coming under fire for denying a student’s request to start a National Rifle Association (NRA) sponsored club.
Liam Nuhring, a senior at Concordia, wanted to start an NRA-affiliated student group on campus to promote gun education and safety training. In late 2016, Nuhring filed a formal student organization request with the school. About 50 students were interested in joining the proposed club.
On Tuesday, several months after the initial request, Concordia ruled against the proposed group, citing conflicting values and principles of the NRA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
“After review of pertinent ELCA documents and in consultation with ELCA leadership, it has been determined that the mission of the NRA and the mission of the NRA Collegiate Coalition is in conflict with the mission and values of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and thus Concordia College,” the college said in a statement.
The ELCA is a strong advocate for gun control. Their social policy resolution “Community Violence – Gun Control” calls for the “passage and strict enforcement of local, state, and national legislation that rigidly controls…handguns, assault weapons, and assault-like weapons and their parts, excluding rifles and shotguns used for hunting and sporting purposes, for use other than law enforcement and military purposes.”
“In contrast, the NRA strongly opposes such views regarding gun management,” Concordia said.
While Nuhring was disappointed by the school’s decision, he said it did not come as a surprise, believing the decision was partially politically motivated.
“All of us in support of this proposed club saw the ruling coming. Based on numerous responses from alumni of Concordia College who have reached out to us with their support, the school has a history of the suppression of conservative and right leaning organizations on campus,” Nuhring said.
Nuhring acknowledges Concordia, as a private school, has the right to set restrictions to types of clubs based on religion. However, he said the rejection letter was “vague and did not accurately outline the conflict of principles.” He believes the club would not be at odds with the ELCA’s mission since the club would focus on education and promoting gun safety.
“The proposed club was never intended to advance campus firearm rights, but rather to provide students with education resources and safety training,” Nuhring explained. “There is no interest on behalf of myself or our student supporters in developing a shooting team or having access to guns on campus.”
Nuhring is now facing the tough decision of cutting ties with the NRA. Being affiliated with the organization leaves them better poised for access to resources and funding. However, Nuhring believes dropping the NRA affiliation may give them a better chance in receiving approval from the school.
“This would be an unfortunate scenario, and would result in massive lost opportunities for students. If we need to remove the NRA affiliation, then that’s what we’ll do and it is my suspicion that the group will be allowed to move forward at that point in time, but again that is still speculation,” Nuhring said.
A recent school survey found that over 35 percent of Concordia’s student body identifies as conservative or right-leaning. Nuhring believes this is an opportunity to give the conservatives on campus a voice where they otherwise have felt shut out.
“My ultimate goal here is to represent the voices that have been underrepresented on Concordia’s campus, as well as campuses throughout the nation,” Nuhring concluded.