After the University of Virginia censored a traditional 21-gun salute from its annual Veterans Day ceremony, the recoil has been so severe that UVA president James Ryan promised the volley of gunfire would certainly be back next year.
The reasoning for silencing the salute perhaps added to the severity of the backlash: School officials saw it as a reminder and somehow a celebration of “gun violence … especially on school and university campuses.”
Before this year’s observance, Ryan posted a statement on Facebook explaining that there were concerns about firing weapons on school property in light of recent school shootings. He gave two specific reasons:
“First, to minimize disruptions to classes, given that this event is located at the juncture of four primary academic buildings and is held at a time that classes are in session; and second, recognizing concerns related to firing weapons on the Grounds in light of gun violence that has happened across our nation, especially on school and university campuses.”
The reaction among veterans and others has been severe.
“I am very disillusioned, very upset, and very surprised that they would make such a decision,” veteran Jay Levine told television station WHSV.
The Charlottesville Daily Progress blasted the move in an editorial.
“It also, ironically, sends an unfortunate message about students: That they are too fragile, too delicate, too distractible to deal with the ‘interruption’ of the salute. That they are too insular, too wrapped up in their own worlds to comprehend and accept this longstanding practice. That they must be protected from the reality that exists outside academia,” the editorial read.
The blowback was apparently so significant – that President Ryan promised to re-introduce the 21-gun salute next year.
According to Wikipedia, the intent of the salute is actually peaceful:
“The custom stems from naval tradition, where a warship would fire its cannons harmlessly out to sea until all ammunition was spent to show that it was disarmed, signifying the lack of hostile intent. As naval customs evolved, 21 guns came to be fired for heads of state, or in exceptional circumstances for head of government, with the number decreasing with the rank of the recipient of the honor.”