It is a glorious fall afternoon, and the members of the "Second Amendment Sisters" at Mount Holyoke College are in high spirits, because they are going shooting.
As it is the last day of a long weekend break, only a handful of the 70 club supporters are on campus to enjoy the excursion to the local firing range, just a few miles away.
"It's good to go out - go to the range with some friends and have some fun. We can talk about our day, what's going on in classes and focus a bit. We can get some stress out," says the chapter vice-chairman, April Sparks.
Mount Holyoke's modern-day Annie Oakleys are nothing of what you'd expect because they are, in fact, everything you'd expect. Among the cross section gathered in this room, some don conservative plaid and long tresses, while others wear such liberal props as pierced noses and punkish haircuts. They're hardly the militant leftist "feminazis" derided by Rush Limbaugh any more than they are the bloodthirsty, rightist rednecks cooked up by some gun control advocates. The group's politics run the gamut — mostly liberals, a few Republicans, at least one Green, and a smattering of Libertarians.
"I've been shocked by who's joined us," says Caywood, curled up on the floor. "Most people think you need to be politically conservative to want to shoot, but our diversity is all over the place." The reason, say members, is largely the school's climate of tolerance. "We're into increasing viewpoints," pipes up 20-year-old April Sparks, a Middle Eastern studies major who has been target shooting since 2001. She jumps in and out of the conversation between glances at a laptop, the back of which sports a sticker in block lettering: "Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History." "The point is to be educational, so people can learn about the issue," Sparks says.
In response to the angry letters and editorials that surfaced in the Mount Holyoke News, the student newspaper, the school quelled further controversy with a forum that was attended by a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Most students and faculty here are pro-gun control," says Kevin McCaffrey, the college's spokesman. "But there's also a community here that's willing to engage in a discussion. Even when there's opposition, it's been a healthy debate." McCaffrey, too, chalks that up to a bubble of tolerance around the campus. "There's a commitment here to free speech and to different viewpoints. Most people don't agree with [Second Amendment Sisters], but they realize they have a right to exist."
And last but not least, let's throw in this rather amusing Satireville article.