I was at a recent gathering to promote awareness of the peril we subject our college students, faculty and staff to when we forbid them the God-given right to self defense. This event was at Virginia Tech, a school which has experienced firsthand the tragedy that is wrought when a deranged killer targets unprotected victims like fish in a barrel. The VT Libertarians in concert with the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) coordinated the event and shared their belief that had concealed handgun permit holders been allowed the same rights inside campus buildings as they are allowed outside, the massacre may not have happened or the outcome might have been much less tragic.
While we were educating the public about this issue, a small group of people wanting to severely restrict access to guns by law abiding citizens staged a protest next to our lawful assembly. They were handing out papers with their reasons for not allowing permit holders to exercise their right to self defense while on campus. I would like to take a moment to examine their reasoning.
They state the following (quoted from a handout from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and handed out at Virginia Tech):
Reason #1. Academic debate cannot flourish in a room full of guns.
Freedom of expression. Protecting free expression of teachers and students is the most obvious way in which academic freedom must be secured. Teachers must be able to address even the most controversial subjects, in their research and writing endeavors as well as in the classroom, without fear that they will be punished for challenging conventional thought or espousing provocative ideas. Students must have the same ability to pursue knowledge without risk of being penalized or restrained by those who might disagree with the students’ views. All of these cherished values of our educational process would be greatly diminished if college classrooms were filled with armed students and teachers.
Now let’s think about this for a moment. What they are implying is that our college professors could and would intimidate the students by secretly being armed (remember we are talking about concealed carry here) and therefore the students would be inhibited and not express their ideas to the fullest. In addition, those students who possess a concealed carry permit and are therefore at least 21 years of age, have passed a background check AND have taken the responsibility to voluntarily get the required training in order to obtain the permit are going to jeopardize their rights and the lives of those around them by shooting a teacher because they didn’t like an assignment. Really? But let’s continue.
Reason #2. Arming Students Would Make Campuses More Dangerous Every Hour of Every Day
Binge drinking and drug abuse. College students engage in a great many high-risk behaviors – including binge drinking and drug abuse – at alarming rates. Nearly half of America’s full-time college students abuse drugs or binge drink at least once a month. FOR COLLEGE GUN OWNERS, THE RATE OF BINGE-DRINKING IS EVEN HIGHER AT TWO-THIRDS (emphasis added).
Did I read that correctly? So CHP holders who, by law, are over 21 years old, have passed a background check and have acted responsibly by voluntarily taking a special course to qualify for the permit are binge drinking at a rate of 2/3 higher than the average citizen…remember now, we are talking about students, teachers and those who work for the universities. But it gets even better; read on…
Suicide and mental health issues. College students are also at elevated risks for suicide, with about 1,100 successful suicides and an additional 24,000 attempts every year. If a gun is used in a suicide attempt, more than 90% of the time it is fatal, compared to a 3% fatality rate for suicide attempts by drug overdose. This is why guns in the home increase the risks of suicide fivefold. How many more suicide fatalities will we see on college campuses if guns become widely available?
According to the Center for Disease Control web site, the suicide rate of adults is lowest in the age group of 18-24 year olds. In fact the suicide rate gradually increases for each age group with the exception of 65-74 year olds. Interestingly enough, suicide by firearm has decreased as overall gun ownership has increased. Conversely, suicide by suffocation has been on the rise during the same time period…maybe we should outlaw plastic bags!
College gun owners have been proven to be dangerous. Harvard researchers have shown college gun owners to be highly irresponsible. They are more likely than the average student to:
· Engage in binge drinking
· Need an alcoholic drink first thing in the morning
· Use cocaine or crack
· Be arrested for a DUI
· Vandalize property, and
· Get in trouble with police
Well, all I can say is that if I was a college student and read that I would be tempted to sue for slander. Again, we are talking about people who have gone through a criminal background check. In fact, CHP holders are one of the most law-abiding groups of people in our country with a lower incidence of crime than even law enforcement officers (who, by the way are allowed to carry guns on campus).
Accidental shootings and gun thefts. Studies show that guns in the home are far more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting than in self-defense. In addition, even trained gun owners often do not realize that a gun is loaded. This often happens with pistols where the ammunition magazine is removed, but a hidden bullet remains in the chamber, ready to kill. Guns stolen from homes and cars fuel crime. College dorm rooms, by comparison, would be even easier targets for gun thieves. Guns are also often taken and used in suicides.
Guns have been allowed in colleges in the past, and are allowed in some colleges today. We have not seen, nor will we see, rivers of blood running down the street. Let me reiterate, these are responsible adults who care about their own well being and take charge of their destiny.
Reason #3. Armed Students would be Accountable to No One
Colleges have duty to protect safety of students.College administrators and campus law enforcement have a duty to protect the safety of students, faculty, and visitors on campuses. Indeed, schools can be held liable for failing to take adequate security measures or otherwise failing to maintain a sufficiently safe environment.
Gun owners do not. College gun owners operate under none of these constraints. They are accountable only for the safety of themselves. If, in a shootout they miss the shooter and hit other students – an extremely likely scenario given that even trained police officers, on average, hit their intended targets less than 20% of the time – they will claim self-defense and claim no responsibility, even if they have directly caused the death of a fellow student. For this reason, security professionals believe that arming students to shoot back would actually make matters worse in the extremely rare instances where mass shootings occur on campus.
In reality, it is the exact opposite…private citizens who miss and injure innocent bystanders, even in a self-defense situation, are accountable under the law. In contrast, law enforcement has a certain amount of immunity when acting in an official capacity. In addition, courts have consistently upheld that it is NOT the role of law enforcement to protect the individual. Furthermore, crimes are usually not committed when the police are present…when seconds count, the police are just MINUTES away.
Reason #4. Shooters Would Not Be Deterred by Concealed Carry Permit
I won’t bother quoting the rest of the paragraph, but suffice it to say that the vast majority of mass shootings take place in GUN FREE ZONES! This is because the killer wants to have as long as possible to terrorize his victims before encountering resistance. FBI studies have concluded that AS SOON AS THE SHOOTER IS MET WITH RESISTANCE they either shoot themselves or commit suicide by cop. In other words, if Cho had met one or more CHP holders who were armed in that first class room, it might have ended there. Even more profound, if Cho had thought that there were most likely armed teachers, students, librarians, visitors, etc. throughout the campus, he may not have even attempted his rampage.
Laws don’t stop crime. Murder is against the law. It doesn’t matter what the vehicle is. Self defense is a basic human right. Are our students’ and teachers’ lives worth less when they are on campus? Do their rights disappear when they cross a threshold? We can’t turn back the hands of time, but we can learn from the past. There are campuses around the country which allow permit holders to carry on campus and there have been no rivers of blood, no drunken shoot-outs in the dorms. Let’s not condemn our young adults to being the equivalent of fish in a barrel.