His posts prompted a hateful reaction from intolerant “keyboard warriors” who despise the police and the Second Amendment. Fordham University officials then opened an investigation and charged him with intimidation, making threats, disorderly conduct, and a hate crime – all for posting a picture of himself with a lawfully purchased and owned firearm and one of a slain police officer. Now he has been banned from campus, asked to write a letter of apology, and told he must complete implicit bias and multicultural sensitivity training in order to graduate with his degree.
Tong says his photograph, which shows him holding an AR-15 rifle pointing at the ground, with the caption “Don’t tread on me,” did not pose a threat to fellow students. In an interview with the Washington Free Beacon, he said he has no plans to apologize.
“I will not apologize. I did nothing wrong and they did everything wrong,” he said. “[Fordham is] a total disgrace. I will not apologize, whatever consequence there may be. I don’t think I’ll even be able to finish college. This is a total bet on my part, but we’ll see what happens.”
Tong’s lawyer is preparing a lawsuit against Fordham University, which they may file in the upcoming weeks. The student’s lawyer, Brett Josphe, claims that the school smeared Tong’s reputation and permanently damaged his future career prospects.
“For a mere $50,000 a year in tuition, Fordham has smeared our client’s reputation and permanently damaged his career prospects,” Josphe told the Free Beacon. “This behavior by the school and its officials shocks the conscience and there should be a heavy price to pay.”
“Thankfully, America’s oldest civil-rights group—the National Rifle Association of America—came to my defense,” Tong said in the video. “Me, my fellow five million NRA members, Students for 2A, and the tens of millions of gun owners will never stop fighting for the Second Amendment.”
And it has not only been gun activists that have come to Tong’s support. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education penned a letter to the university’s president calling for the reversal of Tong’s disciplinary probation. The letter’s author, Lindsie Rank, told the Washinton Free Beacon that the group will fight back against Fordham‘s refusal to comply with their free-expression code.
“Private universities that promise free expression to their students have to live up to that promise,” Rank said. “That, in our opinion, becomes a contractual obligation that they’ve made with their students.”
Here are five quick questions and answers from this brave 2nd Amendment patriot Austin Tong.
You were born in China and immigrated to the United States. How did that happen?
America is the land of opportunity and I think everyone around the world knows that. My parents, who came first, wanted to make a better life for themselves and their family. They knew America was a free country and people come here because of everything the country has to offer. That’s why we moved to New York.
Have you always been interested in firearms?
I’ve always had an interest, mostly thanks to video games, but I never really thought about buying one before. But after recent events I thought it would be a good way to keep me and my family safe.
I’ll admit I wasn’t always a believer, but as time went on, I began to appreciate the rights we have as Americans more and more. And that’s how I got into trouble – because I expressed that appreciation.
What was it like to receive a midnight visit from the Fordham Safety Officers?
Well, I posted the pictures, received the backlash, and a few hours later received a call from the officers saying they were a few minutes away and wanted to talk. I looked out my door and saw them standing outside my home. One came in and one stayed with the car. It was basically about 20 minutes of questions about the firearm, why I posted the pictures, and what I was trying to say.
I’m a good guy, a good person, so while I was a little shook by the visit I knew I’d done nothing wrong. I knew people would probably criticize the post, but I wasn’t expecting the level of backlash, the death threats, the calls for expulsion, or that the entire school would get involved. I was shocked, appalled, and disappointed. But I didn’t do anything wrong and that’s why, if they carry through with their threats, we’re going to sue.
We’ve read about the horrible comments you received, including the death threats, but have all the reactions been negative?
No, not at all. There were a ton of nasty comments after the initial post but once the word really got out, where the NRA really helped a lot, I started hearing from the media, other Instagramers, and people from the firearm community.
That’s why I’m doing this. At first this was my case by now I think of it as the country’s. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I don’t comply with Fordham’s demands. I don’t’ know what’s going to happen to my future but after receiving all those messages from people around the country and around the world – people from all backgrounds and political parties – I knew I had to do more. They were telling me their stories, similar stories, how they were silenced or too scared to share their stories. That should never happen – not here in America.
That’s why I’m doing this. That’s why I’m standing up. When there’s no free speech then America isn’t America anymore. That’s what drives me. It’s empowering what the NRA did, what people across the country have done, and I think we’ll have a great case for protecting free speech.
Did the reaction from Fordham officials surprise you?
It did because the guy who charged me, the dean of students, he knows me. And the safety officers said I wasn’t a threat or being intimidating. They said there’s nothing wrong with me yet they’re still trying to kick me out of school.
I’m shocked and surprised because they know me. They know who I am. And I expected more from this esteemed university.