A biology professor at the University of California, Irvine subjected his class to an off-topic discourse on gun control Thursday in response to the San Bernardino shooting.
In a video provided to Campus Reform by Peter Van Voorhis, a student in the class, Prof. Richard Symanski advises his introductory-level Biological Sciences 1A course—specifically singling out the many freshmen that he knew would be in attendance—that if they are looking for a cause with which to become involved, they should “probably jump on this gun issue,” noting that it “just boggles my mind every time I think about it.”
He succinctly summarized his “pitch” at the end of the discourse, saying, “If you want a cause—want to get on a bandwagon—then get these guns outlawed, and do something about the Second Amendment.”
“I am totally for people expressing their opinions, but when professors do it, they have a captive audience,” Van Voorhis told Campus Reform. “If I could debate him, I would win.”
Symanski’s remarks were inspired by the shooting in San Bernardino, California Wednesday afternoon, but he tied that into the subject of mass shootings in general, asserting that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is to blame for those tragedies because it opposes gun control, and contending that “automatic weapons” should be a common-sense exception to the Second Amendment.
“We are in a situation where Australia had a situation like ours a number of years ago, and Australia said, ‘look we’re just losing too many people’ … [and they] went out and bought guns from everybody; now it is extremely difficult to buy a gun in Australia and very few people get killed.”
Symanski then informed the class of “an article in the paper that said literally, and I’m not exaggerating,” that a mass shooting happens in this country “every single day,” on average.
“Who’s the big culprit of this?” he asked in a tone that discouraged hand-raising. “It’s the NRA—the National Rifle Association—which is enormously powerful in this country, in a way that you and I can’t imagine.”
Symanski lamented that the NRA’s central argument—that people, not guns, are responsible for violence—have never made sense to him, because he considers people to be incapable of resisting the universal urge to pull the trigger when firearms are at hand.
“Look,we’re all sort of off the edge at some point, right? We don’t know when we’re going to fly off edge. And what does the issue become? The issue becomes do we have access to a gun or an AK47 or an automatic weapon? If we don’t have access to the damn thing we can’t kill anybody.”
Later, as if sharing a secret with the class, Symanski observed that “the Second Amendment to the Constitution came into play at the end of the 18th century,” when muzzleloaders were the technological state-of-the-art.
“We had a muzzleloader that took five minutes to load the goddamn thing, and then unless I was this close somebody I couldn’t hit them, it was impossible,” he exclaimed. “We’re not dealing with a muzzleloader that takes five minutes to load; we’re dealing with automatic weapons, that are just bang-bang-bang, and like that you can kill 12, 14 people.”
Van Voorhis told Campus Reform that he was almost surprised that his sole attempt at recording Prof. Symanski was so productive, because while Symanski typically wears his liberalism on his sleeve, the gun control lecture was a rare deviation from topics relevant to the course material, as Symanski tends to focus his ire on opponents to the theory of evolution, which he allegedly denies is a theory.
“The general tone of the course is generally pretty scientific, but it is somewhat in your face,” he said. “You can tell he has, in my opinion, something of a disdain for people who are religious. He mentioned that he grew up Catholic, but doesn’t believe it anymore.”
Van Voorhis told Campus Reform that he has generally gone with the liberal flow in the past, but that he could not resist bringing this particular incident to light because it was so flagrant.
“I’m a very vocal person, but I’ve never spoken out as a conservative in class,” he explained. “I’ve actually just pretended to be liberal, because there’s no point in me sacrificing my GPA and my future just to prove them wrong.”
Prof. Symanski (whose faculty profile bears the Cuban flag as a backdrop even though Van Voorhis attests that he is of self-proclaimed Polish descent) could not be reached for comment at press time, but this article will be updated if and when he responds.
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