Saturday, February 5, 2011

Carrying a Handgun at School

Recent events at the University of Utah have brought up the subject of guns and self defense on campus. I would like to address a few points that are brought up by people trying to discourage on-campus self defense.

The first that is stated by people who haven't thought the issue through, "When the police show up, how will they know the difference between the bad guy and the good guy?"


The good guys comply with the police commands. The bad guy shoots at the cops.

Carrying a gun, having it in an active killer scenario does not mean that your brain turns off. Plus most active killer scenarios involve one psycho shooting at the crowd. The Mumbai style assaults are thankfully really rare. So there is only really one place where there is danger. This thought was recently made in the Daily Utah Chronicle: The likelihood of stopping a rampaging shooter is muddled by the misdirection and chaos of such events—a nightmare for responding police.

In an event where there is only one bad guy, sure there will be confusion and chaos, but it will be crystal clear where the shooting is happening. It's where the gun shots are coming from. People may be running around, but they will be running away from the shooting. If your goal is to stop the shooter, then you move toward the shooting and shoot the guy who is trying to kill defenseless people in the crowd, or who is moving from room to room, shooting the people inside.

When the police arrive, they will make a lot of noise, it will be hard to miss, especially if you are expecting them at any second. So when you hear the cops, put your gun away, take cover and point to where the bad guy is.

In addition, the police only know something is happening if someone calls them. After the shooting starts, it will take some time for someone to call the cops, then the dispatcher has to get information out of the caller, like where it's happening and what the guy looks like. Then the dispatcher has to sort out the information, summarize it and pass it on to the officers, who have to fight through traffic on the street or the University's sidewalks, and then find the bad guy.

If the bad guy is in your classroom, or right outside your classroom, you are going to have to deal with the bad guy before the police arrive. And if you don't fight back, you are going to die.

Another is that there is a risk that the student may miss the bad guy and hit other innocent people. Honestly it could happen, if the armed student doesn't practice or is unfamiliar with how firearms work. Anyone who has a concealed firearm permit is at least 21 years old, and they have taken a class that reminds them how dangerous, both legally and physically, a gunfight is.
They have invested time and money into getting the gun and permit. They probably go shooting periodically. They may seek out some private training to help them to shoot accurately. If they've ever gone out in the desert to 'shoot stuff' then they are aware that bullets go through things. All those factors will be going through their mind as they move through the building, looking for the bad guy. (or better yet, an exit)

It has been shown that in most active shooter incidents, the bad guy changes his plan at any sign of resistance. This doesn't mean simply holding the door shut. If the bad guy gets into the room, the occupants need to attack him. Throw books, backpacks, desks, any thing at him until he leaves or you can get his gun away. When he's being pummeled with textbooks and backpacks, his attention will diverted away from shooting people. The longer his attention is diverted, the more opportunity the class will have to tackle him. There is danger in rushing toward a man with a gun, yes, but the alternative is to rely on a mass murderer to spare your life. The choice is between a 95% chance of being killed while cowering or maybe a 90% chance of getting killed while attempting to stop the bad guy. Doing ANYTHING will increase your chance of surviving such a situation.

We have seen from the Tucson shooting and even the Virginia Tech shooting that in the face of death, some people will still put themselves in danger to protect others. At Virginia Tech, a professor who had survived the Holocaust, held the door to his classroom shut, trying to use his body as a shield. He was killed, I don't remember if he prevented the bad guy from getting in, but I'll bet his last thoughts weren't, "Boy I'm glad I'm not allowed to carry a gun here at school."

The first person to confront the guy in Tucson was a grandmother in her 60's, who rushed him when she saw him attempting to reload. If she was brave enough to confront the guy with her bare hands, think of how much more effective if she had a gun? Maybe she wouldn't have had to wait until the bad guy ran out of ammo.

If people are willing to fight, even if it is dangerous, why should they not be allowed and encouraged to use a gun? A handgun allows someone to inflict damage on a bad guy from a distance, instead of having to charge him first. In an active killer situation, the targeted people are already at a disadvantage. Why should that disadvantage be amplified by making rules against students legally carrying a gun?

Another argument is that someone with a gun might flip out and start killing, that the stress of college is too much for some. First, do you think that making a rule banning handguns on campus is going to stop a flip-out? Second, and more importantly, people who receive a permit have passed a criminal background check. They have shown that for at least twenty one years, they have been able to avoid having a run in with the cops. They are not the type of person that flies off the handle and gets into fights with people, they don't drink too much and get themselves arrested, etc. . . They aren't in the habit of being dangerous to the community. The state trusts them to be responsible with a gun as they go about their business everyday, and enrolling in a University doesn't suddenly change their judgment or the years of good decisions they have made up until this point in their life. It's just common sense.

If I've left anything out, or been unclear on any points, let me know and I'll try to address it.