BY STEPH BRIOUKOVA ’20
Mount Holyoke’s first constitutionally-charged club was the College’s chapter of the Second Amendment Sisters (SAS), which strived to protect the nation’s Second Amendment and change regulations on gun laws in Massachusetts.
Founded by Christie Caywood ’03 in January 2000, the Second Amendment Sisters attended gun ranges and safety workshops and conducted classes on gun rights. In a school of approximately 2,000 students, the Second Amendment Sisters gathered 50 club members of different political leanings ranging from “a handful of conservative activists to libertarians to unabashed liberals who simply like the feel of firing a gun,” reported The Providence Sunday Journal on May 12, 2002.
Inspired by the national Second Amendment Sisters, which started as a counter protest by women opposed to anti-gun movements, Mount Holyoke’s SAS was created in response to similar anti-gun attitudes among students. However, for Caywood, the reason for the creation of Mount Holyoke’s chapter was empowerment for women and a right to self-defense. The group’s motto was “Self-defense is a basic human right.” On the back of a Myths and Misinformation pamphlet on gun violence they printed, “We believe that placing blame for society’s ills on firearms alone ignores the larger, more complicated problems in our society. We believe in personal responsibility, education and enforcement of laws against violent criminals.”
The club collected various documents on the topic of Second Amendment politics from fact sheets and statistics produced by the National Rifle Association, legalities in terms of gun ownership and registration, mythbusters on guns, the Bill of Rights and various constitutional documents. Their most controversial event was a fundraiser hosted at a gun range in Connecticut. This event received attention from The Hartford Courant, which published a piece on the fundraiser on Nov. 4, 2001. This led to more media attention for the group from the Wall Street Journal, CNS News and The New York Times.
This newfound interest in the SAS as the black sheep of Mount Holyoke created a political divide between students on campus. The Providence Sunday Journal reported on May 12, 2002, that “Some on the Mount Holyoke campus say Sisters is hijacking the language of feminist empowerment and betraying the cause.” Director of Government and Community Relations in the office of Advancement Kevin McCaffrey told The Providence Sunday Journal, “‘Most members of the Mount Holyoke community, and I throw graduates into that category, tend to be pro-gun control and on the opposite side of the fence politically from Second Amendment Sisters on this issue.’”
Though the Second Amendment Sisters still exist nationally, the Mount Holyoke chapter ended in 2003 because membership died down and the group’s leader graduated.
When asked about whether such a club should be reintroduced on campus now, Emma Wolff ’21, vice president of the Mount Holyoke College Republicans, said, “I do believe that self-defense is a basic right, and that this message should be advocated here on campus as we cannot even possess pepper spray here at Mount Holyoke. I believe that gun ownership is empowering, and allows citizens in this country to defend themselves, their property and their liberty.”
As was the case when Mount Holyoke’s SAS was active, many at the College do not share this support for the Second Amendment.
“So here are my thoughts: Clearly something needs to change because we don’t think of the next mass shooting in terms of ‘if’ but in terms of ‘when,’” said Mount Holyoke Democrats executive board member Sarah Brady ’18. “I also think that I, and other people new to the gun control debate like me, should learn more about guns. I don’t want to come into this debate without the proper knowledge and do more harm than good.”