Wednesday, May 23, 2012

College students should be allowed to be armed.

A few weeks ago I was listening to Bob Mayne's Handgun World podcast, and he did a show about concealed carry on campus. I felt the need to chime in to give some arguments that people could use, in favor of concealed carry on campus.

Here is the letter I sent him.

Here is the text of the letter I sent to Bob, excerpts of which were aired in episode 176.

Hey Bob, it’s Dave from Utah.

I’m writing to comment on your show about the show about concealed carry on college campuses.

I wanted to give you a perspective as someone who has actually carried a weapon while attending school in recent years.

We hear a lot of arguments against allowing permit holders to be armed while they attend classes, I’d like to address some of them.

1. “There’s a lot of underage drinking in college. Putting guns into these same kid’s hands is a terrible idea.”

First of all, very few people actually have a permit and carry a gun everyday. It’s most people’s right, but very few of us actually jump through the hoops and go through the hassle of lugging around a handgun everyday.

In most states, the minimum age for a permit is 21, so anyone who has a permit is not going to be underage if they drink. Plus, in Utah, it’s illegal to drink alcohol while carrying a weapon, and it’s illegal everywhere to be drunk and carrying a weapon. So there are legal protections in place to stop people from drinking and carrying a gun.

Also, I don’t know of many binge drinkers who jump at the opportunity and responsibility of carrying a gun.

2. “A gun in the classroom stifles academic debate.”

No it doesn’t.

I had a class where the teacher told all of us that he had a permit and carried a gun, due to a scary experience of one of his friends, plus the Trolley Square shooting. He said that he had decided he would never be defenseless. Another student piped up and mentioned that he carried a gun for similar reasons. I didn’t show my hand, though I was also armed.

In our small class of 20 or so students, everyone in the room knew for a fact that there were 2 handguns present.

Guess what happened? A vigorous debate about the safety and usefulness of carrying a gun ensued for about half the class time, and several more vigorous debates occurred throughout the semester. Why? Because university students are adults, and had more important things to do in that class than worry about guns.

3. “Students aren’t trained like police officers are, and would likely shoot everyone else instead of stopping the mass shooting.”

-How do you know they aren’t trained? Good training is certainly available to them.

-We need to get the notion out of our heads that we carry guns to ‘stop’ mass shootings. We carry guns to protect ourselves or the people around us, if we ever need to. (To quote Rob Pincus)

Students should arm themselves in order to protect themselves, not the entire student body. True, if a mass killer came into a room with an armed student, the student may very well end the massacre, but only because he was protecting himself.

Armed students would not increase the danger to the whole campus, but we shouldn’t make the argument that we should allow this because it would make everyone safer.

-Acting to rescue another person in danger is a very tricky proposition, as well as a tactical and legal gray area. You need to be really cautious if you decide to intervene, because you will not likely have a complete picture of what is happening. You will have to process information like “Who is the bad guy? Who has the gun? Is the shooting still happening? Is this a mass shooting? Could it be firecrackers?”

The bad guy will be thinking, “Look another person to shoot.” BANG BANG BANG!

Experts can go back and forth about how to approach this problem, but everyone will recommend that the safest thing to do would be to barricade yourself where you are, and only shoot if the bad guy tries to get into your area.

Some people may tell themselves that they would help anyone in need, but let’s think about the Zimmerman/Martin incident. The people in that gated community are all good, decent people, and they called the cops when they heard someone screaming for their life, but how many charged out started throwing punches at the attacker? (Zero)

There are also examples of normal people endangering themselves to help someone else, but the point is, that until you have been in a life threatening situation, you don’t really know how you will perform, so we shouldn’t be arguing that armed students will keep everyone on campus safe, because that would be a false sense of security. For that reason, it’s an argument that’s easily defeated.

4. “In an active shooter scenario, the police may accidentally shoot the armed student instead of the bad guy, therefore we shouldn’t allow anybody to be armed.”


Or maybe the armed student will be expecting the police to arrive at any second, and when they hear the cops yelling than they will put their gun in its holster and point toward the shooting, or comply with police commands.

Also, it would be pretty easy for the police to distinguish between good and bad. The good guy would comply with their commands, and the bad guy would point his gun at the cops and try to kill them.

5. “The police are trained enough and competent enough to protect the students. It’s their job after all.”

My school had a police force, and during the day 2-3 officers were on duty, plus 3-4 unarmed security guards. Physics state that it would take the police 3, 4, 5 minutes to arrive to any given point on campus from any other given point on campus.

Let’s look at a real life example. When Suleman Talovic started shooting people at the Trolley Square mall, it took two minutes for the first call to 911 to take place, and TWO MINUTES after that first call, Sergeant Oblad arrived at the mall. TWO MINUTES. That’s incredible. This was 6 in the evening on a Tuesday night, everyone was going home from work, and Oblad managed to get there in two minutes. The Salt Lake Police department had recently undergone training from the local gang unit on how to respond to exactly this type of situation, and enough officers were in the right place at the right time to be able to respond and put Talovic down quickly.

But even before Sgt Oblad arrived, Officer Ken Hammond, who was having a Valentine’s dinner with his wife, drew his off-duty weapon and engaged Talovic, diverting his attack and herding him into Pottery Barn Kids. Oblad and Hammond hooked up, and fired about four shots from cover at Talovic before the SWAT detectives arrived and killed Talovic with their long guns.

It was a textbook response, literally. The Salt Lake Police department’s response is now being studied and taught as the best possible response in an active killer scenario. But guess what?

In the 3-4 minutes between the start of the massacre, and Ken Hammond confronting the shooter, Talovic shot NINE people.

Five of them died.

They are still dead to this day.

Even with the world’s best response time, a response time that was far better than the law of averages said it should have been, the police can only minimize the damage in a situation like this. Maybe the first victim didn’t have a chance, but the people inside the Cabin Fever store certainly had ample warning, at least the two seconds required to draw a weapon.

But mass shootings are very rare. Any University campus is open to the public, and anyone can come on. They might pose a threat to individual students who have a right to defend themselves just like anybody else does. Women, unfortunately, are targeted much more than men for face to face crime, and women across the country are victimized on college campuses.

Check out this article about a recent terrifying day at my alma mater, the University of Utah.

The man walked into a female locker room to watch girls dress. Later that afternoon, he groped a woman inside a building. Then long after the sun set, he cornered a woman getting into her car, groped her, and tried to physically control her. He stopped when she bit him on the finger, and she was able to close her car door. Her bite on the finger actually helped the police identify him.

But in a world where such horrible, terrifying random attacks can happen, how is it BETTER to disarm the targets of such attacks? This poor girl was doing the right thing, studying hard late into the night at a university, she didn’t want to be the target of some dangerous pervert, and now she is going to be having nightmares and other emotional problems for years. How is that preferable to this same young lady shooting the guy six times when he became aggressive and dangerous?

What it comes down to, is that nobody can respond faster to an attack than the victim of the attack, and the victim has a much better chance of surviving if they can fight back with a gun. You and I know this, but we need to be able to articulate this concept in real human terms to those whose minds can be changed.