For the duration of the first two weeks of the quarter, large signs dominated by images of targets and firearms were proudly displayed on the lawn across from the Student Resource Building. Naturally, this spurred a backlash against Gaucho Tactical, the club responsible for the signs.
“Perhaps in light of recent events you could have waited a few years before putting up giant billboards with specific trigger words like ‘rifle’ and ‘pistol’ where many students bike past,” said a post on the UCSB Confessions page on Facebook. “I confess I find your method of advertising distasteful. I get you’re trying to be professional but have a little tact.”
Gaucho Tactical, home to University of California, Santa Barbara’s rifle and pistol team, is led by student veterans in order to facilitate safe firearm use and instruction.
“Before we were students, we led and mentored U.S. soldiers and foreign militaries,” says Gaucho Tactical’s official website. “Our board members have collectively 30 years of military service from combat professions in the Infantry and Special Forces. We know what right looks like, and how to apply those values to safe shooting instruction.”
Though Gaucho Tactical is, for all intents and purposes, just like any other club or sports team at UCSB, its recruitment methods were crude and insensitive in light of the tragedy our community faced this past year and did not necessarily coincide with the organization’s goal of safe firearm use and instruction.
Assuming that this is a case of mere trigger warnings (pun intended) and gun control laws trivializes a very real problem that many students face and devalues Gaucho Tactical as a whole. Simply tacking on a trigger warning would not have solved the problem, as the emphasis Gaucho Tactical placed on the firearms themselves, rather than the sport involving them, is enough to send the wrong message altogether.
It is important to note, however, that Gaucho Tactical’s mission does not coincide in any way with the events that occurred in May.
“Our goal is to create a relaxed and safe environment that encourages skill development,” says the official website. “We want every member to develop the skills necessary for participating in ‘high-speed’ drills and competition, but we recognize that a strong base of fundamental skills is more important than looking cool at the range.”
While the people of Gaucho Tactical were well within their First Amendment rights to advertise the way they did, they should have been more sensitive to the community that is still reeling from the events that transpired in May. Even though they may have had only the best intentions, they should have stopped to think about how their message would come across to the community still in the wake of a tragedy. Sometimes the best message is no message.