Campus Shootings and False Security

Monday, a little after 10 in the morning, seven people were killed and three wounded at a Northern California college. CNN described the killings as “execution-style” and said that the shooter ordered victims to line up against a wall. Police Chief Jordan referred to the tragedy as “unprecedented” – a demonstrably false claim. Rather, this shooting is part of a larger trend of mass shootings that occur on college campuses.

Police believe the suspect fled after shooting his victims because he did not want a confrontation with police. Other mass shooters has killed themselves rather than face the police. The common thread is the ability of the shooter to kill a large number of persons who are incapable of resisting, and then attempting to avoid armed confrontation with police by either fleeing or committing suicide. College campuses attract this sort of behavior because college and sometimes government policies often guarantee that the only firearm in play will be in the possession of the shooter. The only security provided by such policies is psychological.

To get a glimpse inside the reasoning behind such policies, we turn to a recent Huffington Post article praising a ban of concealed firearms on campus in Oregon. The author’s thrust is that it would require a majority of students on campus to be armed in order to prevent such events, and that the fewer firearms on campus there are, the better. Further, the author asserts (probably correctly) that most people are not qualified to carry firearms. This reasoning fails on multiple points, most of which can be demonstrated via an analysis of my own situation.

I am a graduate student at the University of California at Davis, and I am a gun owner. I legally possess a Springfield XD9611 chambered in .45ACP. I do not have a concealed carry permit, nor am I allowed to carry a weapon on campus. Being a law-abiding citizen, I do not carry my firearm on campus or in public. However, assuming that if I am not permitted to carry on campus, I will be prevented from carrying on campus is foolish. I prevent myself from carrying my firearm on campus, not the law. There are no metal detectors or checkpoints around UC Davis. Nothing, nothing, save the fact that I think I should obey the law, prevents me from tossing my .45 in my laptop bag and biking (it’s Davis, after all) onto campus. If an individual were determined to take out his woes on students here, my firearm would lie undisturbed in its resting place roughly five miles from my lab. The hypothetical shooter, having already committed to breaking statutes on murder, would surely not be deterred by a little sign reminding him that this is a “gun free zone.” Only individuals already disposed to keeping the law will be affected by carry restrictions.

Now, suppose that California were a free state, with reasonable gun laws. Most individuals would still be unqualified to carry a firearm. However, those people also by and large simply would not want to carry a firearm. Three groups of people would: the peace officers, the crazed or criminal, and responsible firearm owners such as myself. Let us suppose that I am the only individual in my building who carries a firearm. Since it’s a free state, every morning I bike to work with my 😄 loaded with nineteen (free state!) rounds and secured in my IWB holster. One of those mornings, a troubled individual with a gun decides to shoot up my building. Certainly, I won’t be able to save the first few victims, unless the shooter is grossly incompetent. Neither will the police, or anyone else. In fact, even if everyone were armed, those first few would probably die anyway – it takes several seconds to draw a firearm. I might confront the shooter and be killed immediately, allowing him to continue his spree. In this case, nothing was really lost, and nothing gained, by allowing me to carry my firearm. I might also take the shooter by surprise, killing or capturing him before he kills any more people. Confronted with a firearm, he might surrender – the best possible outcome at this point. Alternatively, I might end up engaging the shooter for a prolonged period of time (in which case that CA-banned high-capacity magazine shows its legitimate purpose). This would delay his rampage, regardless of the outcome of the firefight, allowing more people to escape and giving the police more time to arrive. It is possible that inaccurate fire by myself or the shooter would strike bystanders. I practice at the range to avoid exactly this sort of thing, but it could happen. If it does, it’s tragic, but at least the gunman can’t be using that time to put aimed shots on unarmed people.

Laws restricting the carry of firearms by citizens do not protect us. Such laws create an environment in which armed criminals or mentally ill individuals have every advantage. Gun control enables mass murder.

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