Caleb Fleming is a freshman at Virginia Tech and is a news reporter for the student newspaper, the Collegiate Times. CNNU is a feature that provides student perspectives on news and trends from colleges across the United States. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or the schools where the campus correspondents are based.
BLACKSBURG, Virginia (CNN) -- The owner of an online firearms store that sold one of the guns used by Seung-Hui Cho in the massacre at Virginia Tech spoke there Thursday in support of carrying concealed weapons on campus.
Students for Concealed Carry on Campus hosted the owner of the company that sold a gun used in the Virginia Tech massacre.
Eric Thompson, owner of TGSCOM, a company based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, sold a Walther .22-caliber handgun to Cho, who killed 32 people and himself on April 16, 2007.
Thompson also sold two 9 mm magazines and a Glock holster to Steven Kazmierczak, who killed five people and himself at Northern Illinois University on February 14, 2008.
The event was sponsored entirely by the student organization Students for Concealed Carry on Campus and was strongly opposed by the Tech administration.
University spokesman Larry Hincker released a statement denouncing Thompson's visit.
"Free speech is a hallmark of university life," Hincker said. "Still, I find it terribly offensive to learn that the gun-seller of the weapons used in the Virginia Tech campus murders would set foot on this campus.
"Additionally, the organizers appear to be incredibly insensitive to the families of the victims who lost loved ones and to the injured students still recovering from this horrendous tragedy."
But Thompson was undeterred as he addressed the audience of more than 50 students and community members, almost all of whom support carrying concealed guns on campus.
Thompson's appearance failed to bring out a large crowd. The event was largely unpublicized, leaving many students with opposing viewpoints in the dark.
He said he was speaking at his own personal expense, on his own accord, as a result of an "unfortunate coincidence."
Thompson also directly addressed a protester in the audience.
Jessica Schmale, a junior political science major, sat wearing a homemade T-shirt reading, "Guns Kill" on the front, and "Protest Easy Guns" on the back.
"Guns kill, they certainly do, but so do cars and all sorts of other things," Thompson said. "What we need to do is focus on the person that's doing the killing."
Schmale later said she came to the lecture to represent the majority of students on campus who do not support carrying hidden guns, although she recognized her input at the event was marginal.
"I don't believe in concealed-carry [of guns] on campus, and I don't think that is a good idea for a university," Schmale said. "I thought the speech was respectful and I think that he did show that he had compassion for people.
"I still think a lot of it was slanted and very rights-oriented, and did not fully address the idea of what having guns on campus is going to mean for safety in classrooms and the environment in general of Virginia Tech," she said.
Thompson told the crowd it is a waste of Americans' Second Amendment right not to be able to exercise it. Thompson is of the school of thought that believes the Second Amendment protects Americans' rights to carry guns, concealed or otherwise.
"If you don't use your rights, you lose them," Thompson said. "You're in charge of your own life, and if you don't take charge of it, someone else will do it for you."
Throughout his address, Thompson stressed that his goal was not for everyone in the country to have guns, but rather to allow those who wish to own firearms to do so. See which states allow guns on campus. »
"What we need to do as a community, as a country, is to stop prohibiting people who do want to protect themselves," Thompson said.
And his sentiment was echoed by students in attendance.
"I'm glad that he didn't try to make it, everybody should have guns, because that's definitely not what we are for," said Kat Malone, a junior majoring in apparel housing and resource management. Malone is a member of the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus organization.
Nina Camoriano, a junior double majoring in mechanical engineering and Spanish, said that one person who does not want to carry a hidden gun should not hurt the cause, because the protection helps those who are unarmed, too.
"The beauty of concealed carry is that you don't have to carry to be protected by it," she said. "You don't have to carry concealed, as long as your community allows that. In the worst-case scenario, there is somebody there, ready, and armed, and you aren't reduced to cowering." E-mail to a friend