Thursday, May 24, 2007

An Armed Campus is NOT a Safe Campus

Gentle (and not-so-gentle) readers, please welcome guest-poster Brian. He and his wife make their blog home @ Afrogeek Mom & Dad.

I read the following post at their blog recently, and asked if I could re-post it for the benefit of all, and Brian gracefully gave his consent.

Have a look a this:

Immediately in the aftermath of the shooting incident at Virginia Tech the usual swarm of loudmouths scuttled out from under the cultural baseboard and began to scream long and loud to anyone within earshot that if the students and faculty at VT had been armed that they'd have been able to deal with the shooter. (I wonder why no one mentioned arming the staff.) In truth, yes, on a college campus with a large percent of its population armed, eventually a shooter would be wounded or killed, but would an armed campus be safer than a campus where only the university police are allowed to be armed?

Lets face facts, federal, state, county, and local law enforcement personnel are screened to weed out the unstable and the unreliable. They receive training in firearms safety, marksmanship, and the use of deadly force, still, law enforcement personnel manage to mistake innocent persons for perpetrators, they miss their targets and hit bystanders, and the occasionally use excessive force.

Last night, after going through a red light, I was stopped by a cop. I made a conscious effort to keep my hands on the steering wheel where he could see them because I didn't want a nervous, pissed off, or frightened cop to make my kids orphans. If I can't trust a trained police officer not to shoot me, what makes anyone think that I should feel safe on a campus full of people who haven't been screened and who haven't had weeks of special training?

In not one of the letters to the editor, blogs, casual conversations, or radio call-in shows that I've been privy to has anyone explained how anyone's supposed to identify the shooter. If you're making your way across campus, and a friend runs up to you and yells, "Hey! Somebody's shooting people in Maybank Hall!" After you draw your weapon on a campus with a large percentage of armed people, how are you supposed to know which armed person is the shooter, and which one is responding to the shooting? How do the other armed people on campus know that you're not the shooter?

When talking to people about deadly force, I gave them this scenario: You've walked into a room in which there is one person on the floor suffering from an obvious gunshot wound, and two people facing each other with guns drawn. What do you do? Every time I posed that scenario, I'd get this response, "I'd shoot both of them." I know that these people were trying to be witty, but it was their very wittiness that exposes one of the flaws of the armed campus. I can think of many more.

If your Spidey sense (or whatever) does manage to clue you in on the shooter, are you sure that you're accurate enough to hit him and no one else? What about the other vigilantes, are you confidant in their marksmanship? What about the background of your target? Are there no innocent bystanders on the other side of the shooter? What about on the other side of that sheetrock wall beyond the shooter? Maybe you'd better add x-ray vision to your Spidey sense. Are you sure that there's only one shooter? Maybe while you're stalking the guy you think is the shooter, his buddy's stalking you.

Also, when the campus police, the local police, or the mob of students and faculty (and staff) respond to the crime, how do you identify yourself as not the shooter? Why shouldn't they shoot you?

Back when I was in the Army, soldiers who had privately owned weapons had to keep them either off-post, or locked downstairs in the arms room. If you wanted your weapon you had to give the armorer twenty-four hours notice before he'd release it to you. I guess that the idea was to keep young hotheads from running downstairs, demanding their weapons, then running back upstairs to settle scores. If the Army, after having invested a LOT of time and money training soldiers in the benefits of firearms safety, felt that it wasn't a good idea to allow soldiers to sleep with pistols under their pillows, why would it be a good idea to allow college students to do so?

I remember when the Knights of the White Camelia (an even more bedraggled version of the Klu Klux Klan, formerly based in Louisiana) was recruiting on campus at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. They came in and set up their table alongside the campus groups who were likewise recruiting. Unlike the campus organizations, they quickly drew a hostile crowd. Harsh words were thrown back and forth, but there was no violence. The university police kept the peace and the worst thing that happened was that the KWK got free publicity out of the deal. Had guns been allowed on campus, the situation could have turned into something much worse. Some of the students would surely have been armed, and without a doubt, some of the KWK would have been carrying as well.

I'm sure that there are some readers who believe that had the students been armed that the KWK would have stayed off campus. Don't be fooled. Terrorist aren't cowards, if they were, they wouldn't be effective. A misunderstanding on either the part of the students or the KWK probably would have resulted in a bloodbath, and the university police would have been out manned, outgunned, and probably helpless to intervene. Think of all the emotionally charged incidents that take place on college campuses -- Sporting events that turn violent, political protests, rivalries between fraternal organizations that often turn violent, and all of these incidents can be exasperated by youthful hormones and sometimes alcohol and controlled substances. Who believes that adding guns to the mix would improve the situation?

Wise words, indeed, Brian.

During our correspondence, Brian asked me the following:

"I have a question for you. I was wondering how it would affect how law enforcement personnel carried out their duties if they didn't suspect, but they KNEW that everyone they approached was armed. I could be wrong, but I'm willing to bet that there would be more dead and wounded cops and civilians due to the number of nervous and itchy trigger fingers on the streets."

Without a doubt, Brian. There is always the potential for violence in any police/suspect/citizen encounter. The potential for violence varies depending on many factors, even when there are no other weapons involved. Factor-in the knowledge that everyone you encounter is armed and you will see shooting deaths... particularly police-involved shootings increase by several orders of magnitude.

I don't have all of the answers, but I will say that everyone having a gun, with little or no training about how, or when to use one, is NOT the way to have a safer college campus (or society).

Thanks again, to Brian for allowing me to share this with you. Please make sure that you vist Conseula and Brian at their blog, I think you'll like them.



Brillig said...

Excellent post. This hits such a nerve for me. I've lived in places where absolutely everyone had a gun. Don't think for a second that the government or police had any control whatsoever. It was terrifying. It's not about "rights." It's about life and death. It's about knowing you couldn't look at someone "wrong" on the bus or your blood would be splattered all over the windshield. I, along with millions, lived with that fear every single day. I'm horrified by the tragedy at Va Tech. But arming everyone only means a lot more guns are fired. How can that possibly be beneficial?

Jenn in Holland said...

If I could, I would go back through this post and add the "Yes!" "exactly" "well said" and "amens" that burst forth from my lips as I read it.
So well done. I am impressed by minds that think and write so succinctly. I couldn't agree more with the opinion. So glad you shared this post.

Melanie said...

So glad you shared this post! I agree completely! I was spouting off the exact same sentiments the day of the VT shooting!

jessabean said...

Great post...exactly my thoughts. Gun advocates get so fired up about the concept of "gun control" and start yammering on about people infringing on their rights.

I don't want to take your gun away from you, a-hole. I just want to be damn sure that you are mentally stable and know how to use that gun properly. That you are indeed capable of using it for protection and not some hot-headed display of bravado. And hell if I trust college kids--smart as many of them may be--to be running around campus with guns 24/7!

Thanks for sharing this.

viciousrumours said...

My biggest problem with the NRA fanatics and the other people who shout out against any form of gun control has always been when they trot out the "right to bear arms". They always say, "Our forefathers wanted us to be able to own guns..." and I roll my eyes. When the Constitution was drafted 200 years ago, the men who wrote it were ensuring against the violation of freedoms denied them by a despotic British government. That didn't mean that they wanted every citizen to arm themselves to the teeth. Moderation and common sense are what is often missing from that argument.

This post brings to light several good points, but most importantly it's just plain old common sense. I loves me the common sense.

brian said...


Thanks for publishing my post on your blog.

I would like people to know that not only do I believe that it would it be logistically impossible to collect every weapon from every American, I also believe that would it be wrong to collect every weapon from every American.

Not everyone wants to be the Punisher. There are also collectors, target shooters, and hunters who possess weapons who don't feel the need to carry them in the rare event that they'd have to enforce frontier justice.

For a long time I was especially fond of my replica of a .58 caliber, 1863 Zouave blackpowder muzzleloader. (I'm one of those crazy people who enjoy trying to place ever tighter shot groups.) I enjoyed using it to spend money at the range, and from time to time I competed in sporting events.


Gunfighter said...


You are very welcome! I appreciated your comments, as they were cogent and well-presented.

I am in agreement about gun confiscation... it is a non-starter, and something that very few people advocate.

Sane policy on firearms is something that we need to accomplish, I just don't know that we ever will.


soccer mom in denial said...

Thanks for sharing this. And now I have a new blog to visit.

carmachu said...

You seem to forget that on the Rode Island campus that the students DID stop an armed suspect, by going to their cars and getting their guns....

You also seem to forget that the other loudmouths scuttled out and began screaming for more gun control....


Schools will always be a target. Its completely vulnerable.

Gunfighter said...

All of which means nothing, Carmachu. Absolutley nothing.

Most people, responsible citizens or no, know nothing about fighting with guns, and therefore are more dangerous than helpful to the general public.

carmachu said...

Actually dear gunfighter, it means quite a bit.

Every day people defend themselves with guns in all walks of life. They know how to carry, and how to shoot.

Just because you choose to ingore that fact, doesnt mean it doesnt happen.

YOU might be more dangerous with a gun, but I can assure you, those that have taken the time and energy to practice with it, are not.

I serious DREAD sending my kids to school, knowing there is literally nothing to protect them at school. That is the basic fact.

Gunfighter said...

I knew that the concealed carry topic would bring out the wingnuts.

Enjoy your moment.

Terri said...


The Thinking Black Man said...


I'm glad you linked this post! It was exceptionally well done!

This subject has been rubbing me wrong since the news first broke about the shootings. The armchair analysts at CNN and FOX trying their best to scare the entire nation to death with talks of multiple shooters and our vulnerability to guns. I almost expected the news outlets to cut to and from every commercial with a Vincent Price ghoulish laughtrack.

The gun nuts that think throwing MORE guns into the mix would settle problems are absolutely insane. I would love to go on a long rant here, but I would probably just repeat 99.9% of what Brian said.

Excellent post, Brian!

Later GF!

The Thinking Black Man said...

For CARMACHU to be so worried about schools, I'm stunned that he sounds so trusting of folks just walking around the streets with loaded guns.

I have no beef with a parent concerned for their childs safety, but schools are no more dangerous [or safe] that super markets, churches, stop lights, gas stations, playgrounds, strip clubs, golf courses or baseball fields. It all comes down to a moment of insanity and opportunity. A mentally or emotionally unstable person with a loaded firearm and a target.

If you are in a crowd of 100 people, all with guns - all it takes is one person and one shot. Then everybody is ducking is shooting and bleeding and dying.

I bet that CARMACHU is one of these people that always wonders "Why didn't the police officer just shoot the criminal in the arm or the leg?" (I'm not trying to knock your commentor GF, I'm just trying to make my point)

But, shooting is a precision act. People can shoot center mass all day at the range with their buddies slappin' them on the back and tellin' them how great they are. However, targets don't shoot back and you put this same amateur in a 10' x 10' room with an equally armed opponent and seven bullets a piece and I'll bet $100 that 'our pro' doesn't hit his opponent one time!

CARMACHU, I feel your concern for your kids - I do. But, armed masses just isn't the answer.

Lawyer Mama said...

Wonderful post. I'm so glad you've articulately pointed out all the problems with an armed populace.

I'm from the South. I'm comfortable with guns. We even own several (appropriately locked of course, even though I'm not so comfortable with them in the house with children. My husband is from SW Nebraska, also a *gun friendly* culture. I truly understand why it is that people feel so strongly about their right to own guns. But carrying them everywhere is a whole other ball of wax.

Setting aside the training issues raised by your wonderful guest blogger, guns and hormones and alcohol do not mix.

Terri said...

I think we would be safer if "good people" could carry a weapon ...
I am assuming too, that these "good people" have the common sense to keeep their weapons locked and away from kids...

My husband said that in order to get a concealed weapon permit here ... you need to go thru a background check... and pass a firearms class, yada yada....

I know I feel 100% completely safe knowing that Mike has his gun when we go out and about ~ when he's off duty that is.
He always faces the entrance when we are out to eat.

Lawyer Mama said...

I know no one's commented here for awhile, but I forgot to add one thing. Even if you train people, accidents will still happen. I can't tell you how many people I know have either: (a) shot themselves; (b) shot someone else (thankfully, not fatally); or (c) *almost* shot someone else. And I'm talking about sober, responsible people who have been trained. I'm willing to bet that Terri's husband could come up with a similar list of people. I bet GF could too.