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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Campus

Bullet Points: ‘It will bring far more harm than any good,’ says former MSA president


Ahmed Sarraj, former president of the Muslim Student Association, said he worries about camppus carry but trusts God to keep him safe. | Courtesy of Ahmed Sarraj

Ahmed Sarraj, former president of the Muslim Student Association, said he worries about campus carry but trusts God to keep him safe. | Courtesy of Ahmed Sarraj

Chemical engineering senior Ahmed Sarraj is now a Resident Assistant in Calhoun Lofts, the only on-campus housing to allow guns in the apartments.

Sarraj also spent last year as president of the largest student organization on campus: the Muslim Student Association. As an active member of a faith-based organization in a nation where, just this week, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was slammed by media and voters for his remarks about a slain Muslim military officer, Sarraj worries about the effects of concealed carry for his community.

In the fifth installment of our weekly Bullet Points series, The Cougar interviewed Sarraj to hear about the concerns Muslims on campus might have over Texas Senate Bill 11.

The Cougar: What is your position on campus carry?

Ahmed Sarraj: I’m against campus carry because I believe that it will bring far more harm than any good it could possibly bring. College students are often under high levels of stress, and all it takes is one moment of weakness to do something that could inflict serious danger on those around them. Statistics show that students are at higher risks of suffering from depression and substance abuse. Combining these risk factors with a firearm is a recipe for disaster that no school environment should have to face.

TC: How do you interpret the Second Amendment?

AS: I interpret the Second Amendment to mean that responsible citizens across the country have the constitutional right to legally purchase and own a firearm. With this being said, I believe that there must be a system in place that ensures guns are not falling in the hands of those who pose any sort of threat to society. Just like individuals can be placed on no-fly lists for suspicious activity, there should be no reason why the same cannot apply to obtain a firearm.

TC: With growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., are you afraid for yourself or your community now that we have guns on campus?

AS: As Muslims, we are extremely fortunate to be a part of a very diverse community here at the University of Houston. Despite this, we must face a reality that xenophobia and Islamophobia remain prevalent, and we saw this firsthand with the recent resignation of one of the SGA justices. We have faith and trust in God in watching over us and keeping our community safe, but I would be lying if I said that campus carry doesn’t bring me any fear.

TC: How does it make you feel that people around you may or may not be carrying firearms?

AS: As I mentioned before, it makes me feel less safe simply because of the potential danger it puts students in. Often times, supporters of campus carry will claim that having firearms will allow them to take action and protect themselves as well as others in the incident of a shooter threatening the lives of those on campus. The reality of the matter, however, is that more guns would lead to more panic, and as a result, it would make the jobs of our campus police even more challenging. This was the case earlier this summer at the Dallas protest when there was a reported shooter at large, but authorities were required to exhaust their efforts and resources in clearing civilians who were carrying at the time as a demonstration of their Second Amendment right.

TC: Do you feel like you understand the draft policy enough to know what is appropriate and inappropriate with campus carry?

AS: To be quite honest, I do not. However, I’m making it a goal for myself as well as the future officers and members of the MSA to stay informed and learn all the details that are included with campus carry.

TC: Having been president of MSA for last year, do you think the majority of that organization agrees with your opinion?

AS: Yes. I believe that, as an organization, our highest priority is valuing the safety of our officers and members as well as that of the campus’ respected faculty and staff.

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