By: Hillary Cherry
This week, Red Alert Politics released their second annual “30 under 30″ list honoring the most influential young activists in the Conservative Movement. Young America’s Foundation’s very own, Nick James was one of the honorees featured on the exclusive list. Last night, Red Alert hosted a celebration for all thirty of the honorees in downtown Washington, D.C.
Nick is the chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom Chapter at Clemson University. The chapter received national media recognition by hosting a gun giveaway at their Second Amendment Banquet.
“For a few days in the midst of that whole controversy, I honestly thought I was going to end up in jail,” he said.
Young America’s Foundation congratulates Nick on all of his accomplishments and hard work!
by Nick JamesWhen the Clemson Young Americans for Freedom chapter decided to hold the Second Amendment Banquet, I never thought that the event would lead to national press coverage and hate mail delivered straight to my personal inbox on a Sunday night. During the planning stages, I thought that our club would have the support of both our student body, our faculty and staff as well as the community. What I learned, after taking the event public, was exactly how controversial the gun debate is, and how many people refuse to listen to what you have to say before deciding their stance on the issue.The basic premise of the event was to host a dinner banquet for supporters of the Second Amendment which included a keynote speech from a member of the South Carolina General Assembly. To cap off the evening we decided to give away a gift certificate for a Mossberg 715t “assault style, modern sporting rifle.” Before we had even gone public with the event, the story had leaked and I was contacted by Clemson administrators and was asked to have a meeting immediately. Coincidently, on the day I was contacted, a Clemson student had been arrested for driving through campus while his personal firearm was in the glove box of his car.After working with the administration at Clemson I had come to the realization that I could not simply give the gun to a banquet attendee. While giving away a gun was not the primary purpose of our program, it was an important goal for my club from a marketing and community engagement standpoint. We felt that the best way to show and encourage support for the Second Amendment was to give one lucky citizen a great firearm they can use to protect their home, compete with, or even hunt with. We refused to compromise and remove this aspect of our event.After some careful planning and legal considerations, we decided we would move forward with the event as planned, but with one modification: we would allow non-banquet attendees the same chance as those who actually paid to come to our banquet the chance to win the Mossberg. Once we started marketing the event, the firestorm really started. I was receiving hate mail to both the Clemson YAF chapter inbox and my own personal inbox. Liberal professors began rallying forces against me on public Facebook pages, all because my club wanted to work with all applicable laws, to give a law abiding citizen, a perfectly legal rifle.
Things really hit their peak when “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense” of South Carolina began hammering Clemson to shut my event down. Thankfully, I had spent countless hours receiving advice from multiple legal and legislative sources and it was concluded that the political action group had no grounds for action against my club since we were clearly and carefully following all applicable state and federal law. After a final pressrelease, the anti-gun harassment died down and I was able to focus on the execution of our event.
I am glad to say our event went off without a hitch. We had an overflow of students and were forced to turn some prospective attendees away due to fire code requirements. We ended up with not one but three great speakers, two of them being from the SC General Assembly (Rep. Mike Pitts and Sen. Lee Bright). Our third speaker was Richard Belmore, a South Carolina law enforcement weapons instructor with decades of expert experience in firearm safety.
Putting on this banquet has been the best experience of my college career to date. Being able to get 70 people together on a rainy Friday night in the name of freedom brings a satisfaction like no other. I also realized how lucky I am to have the support of Young America’s Foundation. Their guidance is priceless. Finally, this event made me proud to be a Clemson student. I am forever grateful for the work done by the General Counsel’s office. While they did not represent me or my interest, they did spend lots of time answering my questions and responding to complaints from those on the left who neglected to do their own research as to the legality of my chapter’s event.