Would Armed Campuses Be Safer?
Glenn Reynolds argues in a column in today’s NY Daily News that we’d be safer if only more of us carried guns.
In fact, some mass shootings have been stopped by armed citizens. Though press accounts downplayed it, the 2002 shooting at Appalachian Law School was stopped when a student retrieved a gun from his car and confronted the shooter. Likewise, Pearl, Miss., school shooter Luke Woodham was stopped when the school’s vice principal took a .45 fromhis truck and ran to the scene. In February’s Utah mall shooting, it was an off-duty police officer who happened to be on the scene and carrying a gun.
Police can’t be everywhere, and as incidents from Columbine to Virginia Tech demonstrate, by the time they show up at a mass shooting, it’s usually too late. On the other hand, one group of people is, by definition, always on the scene: the victims. Only if they’re armed, they may wind up not being victims at all.
“Gun-free zones” are premised on a fantasy: That murderers will follow rules, and that people like my student, or Bradford Wiles, are a greater danger to those around them than crazed killers like Cho Seung-hui. That’s an insult. Sometimes, it’s a deadly one.
David Kopel has a similar piece in today’s Wall Street Journal.
Last year the Virginia legislature defeated a bill that would have ended the “gun-free zones” in Virginia’s public universities. At the time, a Virginia Tech associate vice president praised the General Assembly’s action “because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus.” In an August 2006 editorial for the Roanoke Times, he declared: “Guns don’t belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very sound policy preventing same.”
Actually, Virginia Tech’s policy only made the killer safer, for it was only the law-abiding victims, and not the criminal, who were prevented from having guns. Virginia Tech’s policy bans all guns on campus (except for police and the university’s own security guards); even faculty members are prohibited from keeping guns in their cars.
It’s virtually axiomatic that, in the incredibly rare scenario when a psychopath comes to shoot up a room, that potential victims would be safer if some were armed and trained to use their weapon effectively. On the other hand, it seems rather obvious that having millions of normally law abiding people carrying guns on their person at all times would increase the incidences of rage shootings that wouldn’t occur if those people had to take the time to retrieve a weapon and hunt down the victim, since they’d likely return to their senses in the meantime.
What seems obvious, though, isn’t always true. Despite a trend in the past twenty years or so towards concealed carry and open carry laws being enacted in most states, there’s no evidence of an increase in violence to others by those not otherwise engaged in criminal behavior.