PLYMOUTH, N.H. (CBS/AP) — Two men who said they would bring guns with them to a state university campus to protest a policy banning them made their case with words, not weapons, Friday.
Former police Officer Bradley Jardis and Army veteran Tommy Mozingo showed up at Plymouth State University in suits and clearly without the loaded rifles they had planned to tote.
When asked if they were carrying weapons, they responded, "not going to confirm nor deny."
WBZ-TV's Lauren Leamanczyk reports
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Doug Cope reports
Had they brought weapons, they faced being charged with contempt of a court order issued Thursday barring them from bringing weapons onto any state university campus in New Hampshire.
Jardis told a small crowd of about 80 students, supporters and security officers that he was glad university officials had obtained the court order.
"We wouldn't have drawn this much attention without it," Jardis said.
Several students thanked him for coming and voiced their support. Others criticized him for disrupting the last day of classes before final exams next week.
"I think it's rude they come here at this time and disrupt my education," said Danielle Aucoin, a voice major from Massachusetts whose voice lesson was canceled Friday.
A number of students in the crowd scoffed when Jardis said, "I had no idea this would be disruptive."
Peter Eyre, of Keene, wore a sweatshirt bearing the slogan, "Badges don't grant extra rights," and said PSU is public property and those who attend should have the right to bear arms.
Plymouth State President Sara Jayne Steen told students in an email Thursday that they wouldn't be penalized for not going to class if they feared for their safety.
She said that the court order might not prevent the pair from showing up and that they might have sympathizers who could show up with weapons.
"If you are uncomfortable, please make the best decision for yourself about being on campus," Steen wrote in the email. Staff and faculty were given the option of taking a vacation day.
Jardis and Mozingo maintain that the university system's policy banning firearms flies in the face of state law and the state and federal constitutions. They say they look forward to returning to Grafton County Superior Court on Tuesday to argue against a permanent injunction barring them from bringing weapons onto state campuses.
Jardis wouldn't say whether he was carrying a concealed firearm. Instead, he said several times, "I just want to point out that no one knows if I'm carrying a gun."
"Yeah, and that's terrifying," replied one female student.
English professor Robin DeRosa and a handful of students and staff held signs in support of the campus ban on guns. Several of Jardis and Mozingo's supporters mocked the group and a sign that said "Thank you for not shooting me."
Police and college security officers were stationed in and around the campus, but authorities didn't interact with the two gun advocates.
University spokesman Timothy Kersher said he was pleased the two brought no weapons. Asked how he knew they weren't concealing a weapon, Kersher said of Jardis, "We've taken him at his word all week. I think he's engaging in dialogue, in discussion. It's what we do here."
Jardis, 31, is a former Epping police officer who resigned last year. He had been suspended from the force in 2009 for a year because he publicly advocated for the legalization of marijuana and other illegal drugs. Mozingo, 30, said he served in the Army from 2002 to 2006 and was medically discharged after a parachuting accident during training. He said he is a full-time activist.
Earlier in the week, Jardis began publicizing his and Mozingo's intention to come to campus to distribute literature with loaded rifles slung over their shoulders on a website he blogs on called freekeene.com. After discussions with university officials and lawyers midweek, Jardis blogged that he and Mozingo would affix trigger locks to their guns as show of respect for the dialogue taking place. University officials then obtained the restraining order.
The issue of guns on campuses is stirring debate at the Statehouse as well.
The House votes in January on a bill that would give the Legislature control over regulating weapons. It would prohibit entities like colleges from banning weapons on their campuses. After Republicans took control of the House and Senate last year, lawmakers voted to ease gun regulations, including allowing them in the Statehouse complex.
If the House passes the bill to bar colleges and other entities from prohibiting weapons, the Senate would next consider it.
University system Chancellor Edward MacKay wrote lawmakers urging them to exempt the community and university college campuses. MacKay said introducing weapons of deadly force into a milieu where impetuous behavior can sometimes take place was dangerous and potentially catastrophic.
Associated Press writer Norma Love in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.