NBC Highlights College Student Fighting for Right to Carry Gun on Campus

In a surprisingly favorable gun rights story on Thursday's NBC Today, correspondent and weekend Today host Erica Hill profiled Dartmouth college student Taylor Woolrich "in Washington D.C. speaking to a group that advocates for legal concealed guns on campus and about her desire to carry one." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Hill began the segment by declaring: "If you mention guns on campus, you're sure to get some attention. This request, though, is not about politics. For Taylor Woolrich, she says, it is a matter of personal safety."

Soundbites played of Woolrich telling the gun rights group: "I'm here today because I've been a victim of stalking for four years....I deserve to feel safe and know that if something did happen, I have the ability to protect myself."

Hill explained the situation:

Woolrich wants a weapon to protect herself from this man, 67-year-old Richard Bennett, who she met while working at a San Diego coffee shop four years ago. She says that's when Bennett began to relentlessly harass and stalk her....Woolrich says Bennett showed up at her home this past spring, just hours after she returned for summer break. A noose, a knife, and gloves were among the items found in her car. Bennett was arrested, charged with felony stalking and possessing a firearm, both while a restraining order was in effect.

Noting earlier that "Dartmouth does not allow guns on campus," Hill later added: "Woolrich now says if Bennett is released from jail, she may leave Dartmouth, dropping out of school so she can protect herself."

The last gun story that was featured on Today hyped a doctor who legally open-carried a gun into a Phoenix airport.


Here is a full transcript of Hill's August 7 report:

7:21 AM ET TEASE:

CARSON DALY: Plus, should college – should colleges, rather, allow students to carry guns on campus. We're going to hear from one ivy league student fighting for that right, who says it's a matter of life or death.

7:31 AM ET TEASE:

NATALIE MORALES: And coming up, why one ivy league student says she could have to drop out of school if she isn't allowed to carry a concealed gun on campus.

7:36 AM ET SEGMENT:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: I think this next story's going to get some conversations going. Now to an item on one ivy leaguer's back to school list that is making national headlines. A 20-year-old Dartmouth student wants to carry a gun on campus for her own protection against a known stalker. The university has said no and this is a decision that could force the young woman, she says, to drop out of school. Today's Erica Hill has more on this story. Erica, good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Fighting to Carry A Gun On Campus; Ivy League Controversy Over Student With Stalker]

ERICA HILL: Savannah, good morning to you. If you mention guns on campus, you're sure to get some attention. This request, though, is not about politics. For Taylor Woolrich, she says, it is a matter of personal safety.

Taylor Woolrich didn't plan to spend her summer break talking about gun rights.

TAYLOR WOOLRICH: I'm here today because I've been a victim of stalking for four years.

HILL: But on Wednesday, the 20-year-old junior at Dartmouth College was in Washington D.C. speaking to a group that advocates for legal concealed guns on campus and about her desire to carry one.

WOOLRICH: I deserve to feel safe and know that if something did happen, I have the ability to protect myself.

HILL: Like many schools, Dartmouth does not allow guns on campus. Woolrich wants a weapon to protect herself from this man, 67-year-old Richard Bennett, who she met while working at a San Diego coffee shop four years ago. She says that's when Bennett began to relentlessly harass and stalk her. She was just sixteen. The behavior continued after she left for college on the other side of the country.

WOOLRICH: He found me at Dartmouth. He found my sorority. He found my family's new home that they moved to.

HILL: Woolrich says Bennett showed up at her home this past spring, just hours after she returned for summer break. A noose, a knife, and gloves were among the items found in her car. Bennett was arrested, charged with felony stalking and possessing a firearm, both while a restraining order was in effect. A reporter for KGTV in San Diego asked Bennett about the charges.

RICHARD BENNETT: I'm as innocent as the day is long.

HILL: When pressed, Bennett ended the interview.

BENNETT: I'm all done here.

HILL: His next court appearance is August 12th. Woolrich now says if Bennett is released from jail, she may leave Dartmouth, dropping out of school so she can protect herself. The university tells NBC, "The safety and security of all Dartmouth students is a top priority," but said it could not discuss a specific student's situation without violating their privacy.

Now we did reach out to Bennett's attorneys, they have not returned our calls. We should point out he is still in jail here, as we mentioned. Her concern and why she says she would want the gun, she told me, if he were to get out, that's when she would fear for her safety.

GUTHRIE: Because it's the point in the case where he hasn't been convicted yet, so there's the possibility he could get out.

HILL: Yeah.

GUTHRIE: It is a complicated case, an interesting one.

NATALIE MORALES: And it's frightening for her.

HILL: Yeah.

GUTHRIE: Erica, thank you so much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC