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    On the morning of Friday, March 31, Aaron Spalding woke up, got dressed, threw a loaded M1 Alpha rifle around his shoulder and headed to campus. The 34-year-old University of Louisville student had contacted old friend Jeffry Smith to help organize a gun rights demonstration that would trace a path around UofL’s Belknap campus, which prohibits guns. Smith, a 58-year-old accountant from Cincinnati, has been leading these types of gun rights demonstrations for a few years now, mainly on campuses in Ohio. This would be his first in Kentucky.

    A group of about 20 people, most of them white men with some sort of firearm hanging from their shoulders, collects on the corner of Third Street and Cardinal Boulevard at 11:30 a.m. Some are dressed in UofL spirit wear, presumably students. They will walk the perimeter of campus until 4 p.m., encouraging fellow students and passersby to approach them and discuss campus carry policies. “I’ve been pushing for campus carry for about two years now, ever since I came here,” Spalding says. He was in the military for 13 years before recently coming out of retirement to go back to school, where he’s now a junior in the social work program. “We’ve had two bills before the state legislature on campus carry that most people don’t know about. In the last 72 hours, because of this, more people have talked about it than they have in two years.”

    Spalding describes his weapon as a military squad marksmanship rifle, and is sure to make clear that it is not an assault rifle. “No one here has an assault rifle. Just because (the guns) look like what we carry in the military doesn’t mean they’re functionally what we carry in the military.” He explains that assault rifles have a selector, which can change the gun’s rate of fire from semi-automatic fire to burst fire, or fully automatic fire. “Yes. They’re all loaded,” he says. “But, no, we’ve asked that no one keep a bullet in their chambers.

    “Most students don’t have a license to carry firearms, and you have to be 21 in this state regardless. Then guns are expensive, and that’s an expense that most students can’t afford. I just want students to be able to have the choice. That sticker on the door — it ain’t stopping anybody.”

    A counter-protest group was set to play kazoos at the gun rights enthusiasts, but never showed. Spalding mentioned that one person who drove past laid on the horn and gave the group the finger.

    Cover Image: University of Louisville - Facebook

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